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Miners Try To End Season With Win

Sports

POSTED: Friday, March 2, 2012 - 6:44pm

UPDATED: Friday, March 2, 2012 - 7:42pm

UTEP (14-15, 7-8 C-USA) looks to get back on the winning track -- and build some momentum for next week’s Conference USA Tournament -- in the 2011-12 regular season finale at SMU (12-18, 3-12 C-USA) on Saturday. Tip-off is slated for 1 p.m. MT at Moody Coliseum in Dallas.
The Miners are locked into the eighth seed at the C-USA Tournament, set to begin on Wednesday in Memphis. UTEP will take on ninth seed Houston in the opening round. The winner will face the tournament’s top seed -- either Memphis or Southern Miss -- in Thursday’s quarterfinals. SMU will be seeded either 11th or 12th in the tournament depending on the outcome of Saturday’s games.
UTEP is 1-9 on the road this season with narrow losses at Oregon (64-59), Houston (81-76 in overtime) and Rice (77-75). SMU is 8-6 at home, including 2-5 in league action with wins over Houston (70-54) and Tulane (64-50) and losses to Rice (68-52), Tulsa (66-60), UCF (59-52), UAB (47-28) and Marshall (73-68).

SCOUTING SMU
The Mustangs are coming off back-to-back road losses to Houston (62-59) and Southern Miss (67-60). Despite its record, SMU has been extremely competitive in C-USA play this season, losing eight games by seven points or less -- including at UTEP, 70-64 in overtime, on Jan. 14.
Saturday will mark the final home appearance for three Mustang seniors -- guard Rodney Clinkscales (3.5 ppg), forward Robert Nyakundi (15.0 ppg) and guard Aliaksei Patsevich (2.8 ppg).
Nyakundi leads SMU in scoring, shooting 47.3 percent from the field, 42.6 percent from three-point range and 80 percent from the line. Nyakundi ranks in the top-20 nationally in three-point field goal percentage and in the top-50 in three-pointers per game (2.7).
Junior guard London Giles is averaging 10.4 ppg and freshman guard Jalen Jones 7.9 ppg.
SMU is first in C-USA in scoring defense (60.0 ppg) and three-pointers per game (7.7). The Mustangs are second in turnover margin (+1.9) and third in three-point field goal percentage defense (.310).

THE SERIES
UTEP leads the series 25-14 and has won 17 of the last 18 matchups between the schools. The Miners are 13-1 versus SMU since joining Conference USA.
The series is tied 8-8 in games played in Dallas, although the Miners have emerged victorious in seven of the last eight meetings between the schools at Moody Coliseum.
UTEP’s Tim Floyd is 3-0 both against SMU and coach Matt Doherty.

THE LAST MEETING
John Bohannon scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half and overtime, and UTEP beat SMU for the ninth straight time at the Don Haskins Center, 70-64 on Jan. 14.
Bohannon was perfect both from the field (7-for-7) and the line (6-for-6) against the Mustangs while adding eight rebounds in a reserve role.
Bohannon did most of his damage in over- time, scoring six points and going 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. His only field goal of the ex- tra session put the Miners ahead 62-57 with 1:20 remaining.
A three-pointer by Jeremiah Samarrippas pulled the Mustangs to within three points (67-64) with 21 seconds left, but UTEP closed it out with free throws.
Trailing 20-15 with under five minutes left in the first half, SMU went on a 20-7 run to build a 35-27 lead, its largest of the night, with 15:03 remaining in regulation.
The Miners started pecking away, finally re- gaining the lead, 50-48, on a three-pointer by Gabriel McCulley with 4:10 left.
London Giles’ layup gave SMU a 53-52 edge with 1:03 to play, but Michael Perez’s free throw with 48 seconds to go tied it.
After UTEP forced SMU into a shot clock vio- lation, Perez missed a three-pointer with three seconds left, and officials ruled that a three pointer by the Mustangs’ Robert Nyakundi came after the buzzer sounded.
The Miners took the lead for good on Mc-Culley’s three-pointer with 3:31 to go in OT.
Perez (16 points) and McCulley (15 points) also scored in double figures. Perez had four steals.
The Miners shot 50 percent and outrebounded the Mustangs 30-21. UTEP also scored 20 points off SMU turnovers.

UTEP-SMU CONNECTIONS
UTEP has three Dallas area products on its roster in sophomore center John Bohannon (Lancaster), freshman guard D’Von Campbell (Arlington) and freshman swingman Julian Washburn (Duncanville). Campbell attended the same high school (Bowie) as SMU’s Rob- ert Nyakundi, and Bohannon attended the same high school (Duncanville) as SMU’s Shawn Williams. Mustang junior guard Nick Russell also hails from Duncanville, and fresh man center Cannen Cunningham is from Ar- lington.

UTEP’S LAST GAME
Connor Frizzelle scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half, leading Rice to a 68-61 win over UTEP on Wednesday for its first victory in El Paso since 2003. The Owls completed the season sweep of the Miners, making 19-of-22 free throws over the final 20 minutes on their way to erasing a 29-27 halftime deficit.
Rice took its first lead (32-31) on two free throws by Jarelle Reischel with 14:23 remaining. After the Miners went up 39-38 on a jumper by Gabe McCulley with 10:30 to play, the Owls scored 11 of the game’s next 14 points to build a seven-point cushion (49-42) with 6:06 left.
Down 56-45 with 4:10 to go, the Miners nearly pulled off another amazing late-game rally. UTEP sliced the deficit to two points (58-56) on a layup by John Bohannon with 1:05 left. But Rice scored the next six points, four on free throws, and wasn’t seriously threatened thereafter.
McCulley, in his final home appearance, led the Miners with 17 points. Bohannon chipped in with 13 points and nine rebounds and Julian Washburn scored 13 points.
UTEP had a horrific second half, shooting 30 percent (9-for-30) from the field and missing numerous point-blank opportunities.
Rice had four players in double figure scoring -- Frizzelle, Arsalan Kazemi (12 points/11 rebounds), Reischel (10 points) and Ahmad Ibrahim (10 points). The Owls finished 22-for-27 from the line and became only the second team to outrebound UTEP in eight C-USA home games (38-34).

NOTES FROM THE RICE GAME
The Miners received 46 points from their bench, tied for the 14th-highest total in school history. It was UTEP’s most bench points since Dec. 29, 2007 at Texas Southern (48) ... the Miners had three double-figure scorers off the bench for the first time since Dec. 19, 2006 versus Texas State ... Gabriel McCulley was 6-for-6 from the field, making him the third Miner to have a perfect shooting night with a minimum of six field goal attempts this season. John Bohannon was 7-for-7 versus SMU and Cedrick Lang was 9-for-9 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

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