POSTED: Monday, February 6, 2012 - 2:16pm
UPDATED: Monday, February 6, 2012 - 11:41pm
UTEP picked up seven votes-three more than last week- and is now tied for 35th in the country according to the Associated Press top-25 poll released Monday. The Miners (20-2, 9-0 C-USA) handed Rice its first home setback in league play, 45-41, in their lone game of the week on Feb. 5.
UTEP, currently riding its second 10-game winning streak of the season, is one of eight teams nationally to be unbeaten in conference play and have two or fewer total losses.
Defense has been the calling card for success for the Orange and Blue thus far. UTEP is fourth nationally in field-goal percentage defense (32.6), fifth at guarding the three (23.9), 11th in scoring defense (51.7), 12th in blocked shots per game (6.0), 14th in scoring margin (16.0) and 15th in rebounding margin (9.2).
The Miners are atop C-USA at 9-0 but Memphis (7-2), UAB (7-2) and Tulane (6-3) are not far off. It has a pair of C-USA games on tap this week, and both will be at the Don Haskins Center. UTEP will play host to Marshall at 7:05 p.m. MST Thursday while challenging the Green Wave at 1:05 p.m. MST Sunday.
Thursday is “Slam Dunk School Night,” and all kids get in free. Kids will also receive Southwest Dairy Farmers bags, and there will be an autograph session after the game.
Sunday will be the Pink Zone game as part of “Breast Cancer Awareness Day,” and all fans who wear pink will get in free. There will also be in-game pink prizes, and a free post-game basketball clinic.
UTEP stands at 12-1 at home this year, marking the school-record fifth straight season of at least 12 home triumphs. Fan support has played a big role in that, with the Miners pacing Conference USA in both overall average (1,785) and league-games only (3,072).
The Miners have drawn better than 2,000 fans in five of the past six contests and seven times overall. It played in front of a season-best 4,029 in the triumph against UCF on Jan. 29, with the crowd certainly influencing the outcome of the game.