For the third straight year, the UTEP men’s basketball team will open the season against a team coming off a 20-win campaign when Oral Roberts comes to the Haskins Center for “80’s Night” on Friday.
Tip-off is set for 7 pm.
The Miners will wear retro 80’s uniforms on “80’s Night” as they seek to recapture the magic of a decade where they posted 227 victories, won eight conference titles and advanced to six NCAA Tournaments.
Fans can gain free admission to the UTEP football team’s game versus UCF on Saturday (5 pm) by exchanging a men’s or women’s basketball ticket from this weekend. The UTEP women will also tip-off their season at home against Loyola Marymount on Saturday at 1 pm.
UTEP season tickets start at $160 (747-6150), and single-game tickets start at $8 (747-5234).
Oral Roberts was 27-7 last season (10-4 on the road) and won the Summit League regular season title with a 17-1 record. The Golden Eagles were upset by Western Illinois, 54-53, in the semifinals of the Summit League tournament and earned an NIT bid, losing to Nevada in the opening round 68-59. ORU returns two starters and five lettermen from that squad.
ORU has moved to the Southland Conference for the 2012-13 season. The Golden Eagles are the preseason pick to win the Southland Conference, based on a vote by league coaches and sports information directors.
“They’ve got a lot of positive things going into a tough early season opener on the road,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “But this is who they are. They played at West Virginia a year ago in their opener and played well. We expect a really difficult matchup.”
Oral Roberts played two preseason exhibitions. The Golden Eagles beat Missouri Southern (83-66) and Oklahoma Wesleyan (92-69). ORU shot 52.9 percent (63-for-119) from the field and 84.8 percent (39-for-46) from the line in the two exhibitions.
“They are a team that is going to get the ball inside over and over,” Floyd said. “That was their M.O. a year ago. They run a lot of great set plays and they take great shots with guys who can make shots. It’s an experienced team. Scott Sutton [ORU head coach] likes his newcomers. Their point guard redshirted a year ago, and they felt like he would’ve started for them [last season].”
Freshman guard Korey Billbury (15.5 ppg), junior forward Shawn Glover (16.5 ppg), senior guard Warren Niles (12.5 ppg) and junior forward Steven Roundtree (17.0 ppg) all scored in double figures in both exhibitions. Senior forward/center Damen Bell-Holter was the team’s leading rebounder in both games with 15 versus Missouri Southern and 10 against Oklahoma Wesleyan. That’s a concern for a UTEP team still trying to build an identity inside.
“We’ve got five bigs, and there’s not a clear cut differential between them right now,” Floyd said. “Chris Washburn is very talented, but young. Hooper Vint is a redshirt freshman with some ability. John Bohannon, Cedrick Lang and Malcolm Moore are all more experienced. But I don’t know who we would say is going to go out and get us 15 boards.”
Answers will start coming to the questions on Friday.