Men's Basketball Preview: UTEP at UAB on Saturday
Fresh off a 69-59 win over Tulsa in its C-USA opener on Wednesday, UTEP (13-3) plays its first league road game on Saturday at UAB (10-3). The Blazers are coming off an 85-64 loss at top-ranked Duke and will be tipping off the C-USA portion of their schedule.
Saturday's game will be nationally televised on CBS College Sports, with Roger Twibell and Wally Szczerbiak calling the action.
UTEP is 18-21 in Conference USA road games since joining the league for the 2005-06 season (7-1 last season). The Miners carry a seven-game conference road winning streak into the matchup with UAB. UTEP has won nine of its last 11 C-USA road games dating back to the 2008-09 season.
UTEP is 2-3 in C-USA road openers with a win at SMU (80-67) in 2006, a loss at Tulsa (86-79 in OT) in 2007, a loss at Houston (77-72) in 2008, a win at SMU (74-68) in 2009 and a loss at Houston (75-65) in 2010.
The Blazers are one of four C-USA teams still unbeaten at home. UAB is 7-0 at Bartow Arena. UCF is 10-0 at home, and Southern Miss & Tulane are both 7-0. The Miners handed UAB its first home loss of the season a year ago following 10 straight victories, 74-65 in double overtime.
Saturday's game will match two of C-USA's most experienced backcourts. UAB will counter UTEP's senior triumverate of Randy Culpepper, Christian Polk and Julyan Stone with seniors Jamarr Sanders (17.5 ppg) and Aaron Johnson (9.8 ppg/C-USA best 8.2 apg).
Johnson, in particular, has been a thorn in the Miners' side over the last three seasons. In six games against UTEP, he has averaged 11.3 ppg with a .594 (19-for-32) field goal percentage and 27 assists. He scored 31 points in the two games versus the Miners last season and might have had more had he not broken his nose late in regulation in the Birmingham meeting.
Sophomore forward Cameron Moore has given UAB an inside presence this season, averaging 16.6 ppg and 9.5 rpg.
The Blazers are second in C-USA in scoring defense (60.6 ppg) behind UCF (56.8 ppg). UAB is first in the league in assist/turnover ratio (1.2) and second in free throw percentage (.754).
Three straight wins has given the Miners a 6-5 edge in the series ledger (UAB had won the previous four matchups between the schools). The Blazers are 3-1 versus the Miners in Birmingham, with all four games being decided by nine points or less.
UAB is one of six teams that the Miners will face only once in C-USA play, along with East Carolina, Marshall, Memphis, Southern Miss and UCF. UTEP and UAB squared off twice during the previous four regular seasons.