POSTED: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 3:47pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 7:06pm
EL PASO — UTEP (13-13, 6-6 C-USA) plays a second straight game versus a first-place team in Conference USA on Wednesday when Southern Miss (22-5, 9-3 C-USA) comes to the Don Haskins Center. The Golden Eagles and Memphis are tied for the top spot in the league standings. The Miners handed the Tigers their first C-USA home loss of the season -- while winning at the FedExForum for a second straight time -- with a 60-58 triumph on Saturday.
The Miners have won three games in a row, duplicating their longest string of victories this season. UTEP also enjoyed a three-game winning streak from Dec. 17-22. The Miners’ longest C-USA regular season winning streak under coach Tim Floyd was four games from Jan. 12-26, 2011.
UTEP is 10-4 at home this season and 29-7 at home under Floyd, including 14-3 versus C-USA opponents. Overall the Miners are 44-9 in C-USA home games since joining the league for the 2005-06 season. UTEP has won 22 of its last 24 C-USA regular season home games dating back to the 2008-09 season.
Wednesday marks UTEP’s next-to-last home game of the season. The Miners will host Rice on “Senior Night” Feb. 29.
HAMILTON IS WEDNESDAY’S
The Miners will honor past great Kevin Hamilton at halftime of the Southern Miss game. Hamilton was a four-year letterman from 1982-86 and a member of three NCAA Tournament teams. He led the Miners to 95 wins and four Western Athletic Conference titles.
Hamilton averaged 8.9 points as a freshman and 8.6 points as a sophomore. He led the team in rebounding as a sophomore (5.3 avg.). Hamilton posted five double-doubles during his career. “Hambone” came to UTEP from the legendary Crenshaw High School program in Los Angeles.
SCOUTING SOUTHERN MISS
The Golden Eagles were upset by Houston, 73-71, on Saturday at Hofheinz Pavilion. Southern Miss was outscored 26-10 over the final 10 minutes of the first half to fall behind 38-27 at the midway point. The Golden Eagles battled back to take a four-point lead (53-49) with 8:40 to go before the Cougars went on a game-changing 11-2 run. Houston went 10-for-10 from the line in the final 1:07.
Sophomore guard Neil Watson led Southern Miss with 27 points, and junior forward Jonathan Mills had a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Watson is scoring a team-leading 12.2 points per game, with junior guard LaShay Page (12.1 ppg), senior guard Darnell Dodson (11.3 ppg) and senior guard Maurice Bolden (10.1 ppg) also averaging double figures.
The Golden Eagles top C-USA in free throw percentage (.757) and turnover margin (+2.9) and rate second in scoring margin (+8.6 ppg). Watson is first in the league in foul shooting (133-for-153, 86.9 percent) and assist/turnover ratio (2.4), and Page has been on the floor for an average of 36.6 minutes per game to lead all C-USA players.
UTEP owns an 11-5 advantage in the series. The Miners are 8-3 versus the Golden Eagles since joining Conference USA, but had a four-game winning streak snapped with a 64-51 loss in Hattiesburg last season.
UTEP is 7-1 versus Southern Miss in the Don Haskins Center, including 4-0 since joining C-USA. The four wins have come by 18 (68-50), 11 (90-79), 12 (87-75) and seven (56-49) points. Overall UTEP has beaten Southern Miss seven straight times in “The Don.”