El Paso, TX — The UTEP men’s basketball team will put its perfect home mark on the line when it hosts a pair of 2013 NCAA Tournament teams this week. The Miners will tangle with Colorado State on Tuesday (Nov. 19) prior to the rematch versus I-10 rival NM State on Saturday (Nov. 23). Both games are at 7:05 p.m.
The Rams (2-1) were 26-9 last season and finished second in the Mountain West Conference with an 11-5 mark. Colorado State knocked off Missouri in the NCAA Tournament (84-72) before falling to eventual national champion Louisville 82-56.
The Rams are in somewhat of a rebuilding mode after losing all five starters from their NCAA Tournament team. Colorado State has four returning letterwinners, headlined by junior guard Daniel Bejarano (6.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg in 2012-13) and junior guard Jon Octeus (4.7 ppg/2.6 rpg last season).
They’ve done a really nice job considering they’ve had to integrate new starters across the board,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.
The Rams opened the season with a 99-70 rout of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (Nov. 8) before falling at no. 15 Gonzaga (Nov. 11), 93-61. They got back on the winning track Saturday versus Weber State, 88-67.
“The tough loss at Gonzaga probably helped them because they beat a good Weber State team decisively at home,” Floyd said. “They’ve got another good rebounding team, and another team that has good poise in terms of their shot selection. Their best players are taking the right shots. I think they’ve got another very good defensive club.”
Junior forward J.J. Avila, a transfer from Navy, leads CSU in scoring (15.7 ppg). He scored 30 points against Weber State, making 10-of-19 shots and 9-of-9 free throws.
Octeus posted 27 points versus Gonzaga and is second on the squad in scoring (15.0 ppg). Bejarano averages 14.7 points, and freshman guard David Cohn averages 10.7 ppg. Bejarano is averaging a team-high 9.7 rebounds and had a double-double (17 points/16 boards) in the opener versus UCCS.
The Miners have lost seven straight games in a series that they once dominated. While UTEP holds a 26-8 edge in games played in El Paso, the Rams have won three in a row at the Haskins Center. Last year Colorado State nipped UTEP in Fort Collins, 62-58. UTEP is 0-2 versus CSU under Floyd, including a 56-53 setback at the DHC during the 2011-12 season.
“We haven’t beaten them the last two years, so it’s a game that could go a long way for us if we could get it,” Floyd said.
Tuesday’s Miner Legend is Willie Worsley, one of the heroes of the 1965-66 Texas Western national championship team. Worsley played for the Miners from 1965-68, appearing in 78 games and averaging 11.2 points and 3.2 rebounds. He also played for New York in the ABA during the 1968-69 season, appearing in 24 games and averaging 6.0 points.