Miners host McNeese State Monday Night

Miners host McNeese State Monday Night
Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 6:02pm

UTEP (3-5) seeks back-to-back victories for the first time this season when McNeese State (4-5) comes to the Don Haskins Center on Monday. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m. The Miners are fresh off an 87-57 win over Southern on Saturday night.

All copper reserved tickets are $9 for Monday’s game, a 50 percent savings from the regular price.

The Miners (3-2 at home) have won three of their last four games in the Haskins Center, including topping UC Riverside on Nov. 13 (52-41) and NM State on Dec. 11 (73-69). UTEP is 18-1 in its last 19 December home games dating back to the 2006-07 season with a current 11-game winning streak.

UTEP will depart El Paso for Honolulu, Hawaii on Tuesday morning and participate in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Dec. 23-25 at the Stan Sheriff Center.

The Miners are starting fresh this season with nine newcomers, including a Division I transfer (junior guard Jacques Streeter) 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 Cowboys are 1-5 on the road this season with a win over Louisiana (78-56) on Dec. 1. The record, however, doesn’t tell the full story as McNeese dropped a close contest at Louisiana Tech (60-58) on Dec. 14 and trailed 20th-ranked California 28-26 at the half in Berkeley before falling 73-57 on Nov. 28.

McNeese has a couple of players with double figure scoring averages in senior swingman Patrick Richard (16.4 ppg) and junior guard Jeremie Mitchell (13.0 ppg). Mitchell ranks among the most prolific three-point shooters in the NCAA, firing at a 40 percent clip from outside while averaging 2.9 triples per contest. New Mexico transfer and former UTEP recruiting target Will Brown averages 3.5 ppg and 4.8 rpg for the Cowboys.

Sixth-year head Coach Dave Simmons played his college ball at Louisiana Tech starting in 1977, a year after Tim Floyd was a student assistant with the Bulldogs.

McNeese was 21-12 last year, 11-5 in the Southland Conference (tied for first place) and participated in the postseason NIT.

UTEP won both previous meetings with the Cowboys. The Miners topped McNeese 82-72 on Dec. 18, 1982, and 84-74 on March 14, 2001. Both games were played in the Sun City. The latter was a first round matchup in the postseason NIT.

The Miners’ all-time record versus Southland Conference opponents is 29-4, including 24-3 in El Paso. The Miners are 0-2 against Southland teams on their home floor this season, however, falling to UTSA on Nov. 11 (73-64) and Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 26 (53-35).

UTEP’s Tim Floyd hasn’t coached against McNeese State.

UTEP jumped out to a 42-23 halftime lead en route to an 84-74 win over McNeese State in an NIT first round game on March 14, 2001 in the Haskins Center.  McNeese State shot 33.7 percent and was crushed on the boards, 57-37.

Brandon Wolfram posted 24 points, Brian Stewart 17 and Leonard Owens 13 for UTEP, which placed all five starters in double figure scoring. Roy Smallwood and Eugene Costello chipped in with 11 and 10 points respectively.

UTEP had a 15-0 run midway through the first half, turning a 14-13 deficit into a 28-14 lead. The final margin was as close as McNeese State, the Southland Conference regular season champion, could get in the second half.

McNeese State tied the Haskins Center record for field goal attempts by an opponent with 83. Demond Mallet led the Cowboys with 23 points, going 6-for-16 from three-point territory. The Cowboys attempted 35 threes and made 12.

Gabriel McCulley and Julian Washburn both established career-highs with 19 points, and Michael Perez tallied 16 of his 18 points in the second half as UTEP rolled to an 87-57 conquest of Southern University on Saturday in the Don Haskins Center.

The Miners posted their largest margin of victory this season while equaling the most points they have scored in a regulation game under coach Tim Floyd. UTEP also put 87 points on the board against Mercer and Western New Mexico last season. The Miners scored 97 points in a triple-overtime loss at UAB a year ago, but only 71 came in regulation.

After Southern tied the game at 9 on a three-pointer by Madut Bol with 14:38 to go in the first half, the Miners scored nine unanswered points to forge an 18-9 lead on a jumper by Jalen Ragland with 11:50 on the clock. UTEP extended its lead to as many as 15 points (32-17) before settling in with an 11-point advantage (39-28) at the midway point.

The Miners blew the game open with another 9-0 spurt early in the second half, pushing a 45-32 lead to 54-32. UTEP took its largest lead of 35 points (83-48) on a McCulley dunk with 2:36 to go and equaled it at 85-50 on two free throws by McCulley with 1:42 to play.

The Miners shot 50 percent (30-for-60) from the field and hit a season-high 12 three pointers, including three each from McCulley and Washburn. UTEP finished 12-for-23 from outside and 15-for-16 from the line.
UTEP had one turnover in the first half and finished with six.

John Bohannon registered the fourth double-figure rebounding game of his career with 10 boards in 23 minutes off the bench.

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