Miners to face Ex-Coach for Tournament Third-Place


POSTED: Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 5:21pm

UPDATED: Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 10:57pm

UTEP (5-6) and Auburn (8-2) battle for third place in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on Christmas Day in Honolulu. Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. MT (2:30 HT), and ESPN2 will have national coverage of the game.

The Miners are playing a Christmas Day game for the first time in school history against an Auburn team coached by Tony Barbee. Barbee was the Miners’ head coach for four seasons (2006-10), compiling an 82-52 record including a berth in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Sunday’s game represents the first occurrence in UTEP basketball history where the Miners will face a former head coach on the opposing bench.

Five members of Barbee’s staff -- assistant coaches Randall Dickey, Tony Madlock & Milt Wagner, director of basketball operations Mike Babul and video coordinator Corey Speights -- also have UTEP ties. Speights played for the Miners for two seasons (2006-08).

Both teams split their first two games in this tournament. The Miners beat Clemson (61-48) and lost to Kansas State (78-70), and Auburn knocked off Hawaii (65-62) before falling to Long Beach State (64-43). UTEP’s leading scorers in the Diamond Head Classic are Michael Perez (17.5 ppg) & Jacques Streeter (11.0 ppg), and the leading rebounders are John Bohannon (6.0 rpg), Gabriel McCulley (6.0 rpg) & Cedrick Lang (5.5 rpg). Streeter is also averaging 6.5 assists in the event.

The Miners will be playing their fifth game in nine days on Sunday after beating Southern on Dec. 17 (87-57), McNeese State on Dec. 19 (69-54), Clemson on Dec. 22 (61-48) and losing to Kansas State on Dec. 23 (78-70). Michael Perez has played 74 minutes in two tournament games (including going the distance versus Clemson), and Jacques Streeter has played 72. Four Miners played 34+ minutes on Friday against K-State -- Streeter (38), Julian Washburn (36), Perez (34) and Gabriel McCulley (33). Over the last four games, Perez leads UTEP with 127 minutes of playing time (31.8 avg.).

The Miners and Tigers will be squaring off for the third time on Sunday, with both previous encounters taking place in El Paso. On Dec. 21, 1973, UTEP beat Auburn at Memorial Gym, 68-56. On Dec. 29, 1986, the Miners upset the fifth-ranked Tigers, 87-82, at the Special Events Center to win the Sun Carnival Classic Tournament.

UTEP is facing an SEC team for the first time since dropping a 91-81 overtime decision to no. 20 Mississippi on Dec. 19, 2009 in Southaven. UTEP is 6-5 all-time versus teams currently in the Southeastern Conference, including a 72-65 win over Kentucky in the famed 1966 national championship game. UTEP’s last victory over an SEC squad was against LSU, 85-74, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Tucson on March 17, 1989.

UTEP’s Tim Floyd hasn’t coached against Auburn.

Senior forward Gabriel McCulley is the only player on this year’s UTEP roster who has played for Tony Barbee. McCulley appeared in 71 games under Barbee’s watch from 2007-10. Barbee also recruited John Bohannon, a sophomore center on this year’s squad.

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