El Paso, TX — Fresh off a 64-51 win at Washington State on Saturday, the UTEP Miners will tip off a six-game homestand – their longest of the season – against Montana State on Monday at 7:05 p.m.
It’s the first of three home games for UTEP (7-5) this week. The Miners will battle Western Illinois and Denver in the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Montana State (5-5) comes to El Paso riding a three-game winning streak after knocking off Walla Walla (109-54) on Dec. 7, Portland (72-69) on Dec. 15 and Southwestern Christian (109-79) on Dec. 19.
The Bobcats are 2-2 on the road with wins over Portland and Central Michigan (59-54), and losses to UC Riverside (72-67) and Wyoming (79-54).
Montana State has tremendous scoring balance with five players averaging at least nine points per game. Sophomore guard Marcus Colbert is first in line at 10.5 ppg, followed by senior forward Flavien Davis (10.4 ppg), senior forward Calen Coleman (9.2 ppg), senior center Paul Egwuonwu (9.2 ppg) and sophomore forward Terrell Brown (9.0 ppg).
Egwuonwu is the team leader in rebounds (7.8 avg.) and blocks (1.9 bpg).
Brown rates among the national leaders in free throw percentage. He has made 27-of-31 on the year (.871).
“They have very good guard play, and they’re very organized offensively,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “They have played an extremely challenging schedule to this point.”
The Miners are feeling good about themselves after stringing together wins over 2013 NCAA Tournament participant Northwestern State (84-74) and Washington State. They’ll try to close out a stretch of four games in eight days with a victory over Montana State on Monday.
The Miners have their second two-game winning streak of the season. They haven’t scored three victories in a row since January of 2013. UTEP’s longest winning streak of the 2012-13 season was three games, and its longest winning streak in 2011-12 was four.
“[Montana State] will give us a test in the standpoint of having to play with a quick turnaround without a lot of preparation time,” Floyd said. “They are a very capable scoring team, and defensively they’re going to present problems for us on the glass.”
UTEP and Montana State will be squaring off for the second time. In the first meeting between the schools, the Miners topped the Bobcats, 103-90, at the Trojan Invitational in Los Angeles on Dec. 28, 1968. Future NBA Hall of Famer Nate Archibald scored 35 points in that game with a career-high 16 field goals.