Final Battle of I-10 Set for Today at the Haskins Center


POSTED: Friday, December 9, 2011 - 5:20pm

UPDATED: Sunday, December 11, 2011 - 6:45pm

Following a 12-day layoff between games, UTEP (1-4) will close the month of December with nine contests in 19 days. The Miners begin the grueling stretch with a Sunday matinee against I-10 rival NM State. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. MT.

The Miners have played five games. No other Conference USA team has played fewer than seven entering Sunday, as Tulsa leads the way with 11 games in the books.

UTEP and NM State will wrap up this year’s edition of the SONIC Battle of I-10 Rivalry Series after the Aggies topped the Miners in Las Cruces, 89-73, on Nov. 19.

UTEP will retire Nolan Richardson’s #42 at halftime of Sunday’s game. He played for the Miners from 1960-63 before enjoying a distinguished college coaching career.

The Miners are starting fresh this season with nine newcomers, including a Division I transfer (junior guard Jacques Streeter), a junior college transfer (junior forward Malcolm Moore) and seven freshmen. UTEP returns just three letterwinners and one starter (senior forward Gabriel McCulley) from last year’s unit that finished 25-10 overall and tied for second place in Conference USA with an 11-5 mark. The Miners lost 82.5 percent of their scoring and 70.6 percent of their rebounding production from the 2010-11 squad, which had eight seniors.

The Aggies have played five games since their win over the Miners on Nov. 19, posting a 2-3 mark with victories over Central Michigan (78-49) and San Francisco (81-71) in the Great Alaska Shootout. They lost twice to Southern Miss during that stretch -- once in Alaska (80-72) and also in Hattiesburg (74-66) -- and dropped an 83-76 decision to Arizona at the Pan American Center. NMSU will be playing its first game in a week on Sunday.

Senior forward Wendell McKines (18.1 ppg), sophomore guard Christian Kabongo (16.1 ppg) and senior guard Hernst Laroche (10.3 ppg) all have double figure scoring averages. McKines rated 13th in the country in double-doubles through the games of Dec. 4 with four. The Aggies held national top-100 rankings in scoring offense (76.6 ppg, 61st) and rebound margin (+5.5 avg., 68th).

NM State holds a 102-100 edge in the series ledger. One team has swept the season series in seven of the last nine years. NMSU won both matchups during the 2002-03 and 2006-07 seasons, and the Miners swept the Aggies during the 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06, 2007-08 and 2010-11 campaigns.

UTEP has a 59-46 advantage in games played in El Paso. The Miners have won eight of the last 11 matchups between the schools in the Don Haskins Center.

UTEP’s Tim Floyd is 3-1 all-time when coaching against NMSU’s Marvin Menzies.

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