Must Win Tonight for UTEP Men's Basketball against Houston
POSTED: Saturday, February 19, 2011 - 3:58pm
UPDATED: Saturday, February 19, 2011 - 7:33pm
UTEP (19-6, 7-3 C-USA) begins a stretch of three games in five days at home on Saturday versus Houston (12-12, 4-7 C-USA). The Miners will host UCF on Monday at 11 a.m. in the makeup of a game originally scheduled to be played on Feb. 2, before hitting the road for a matchup at East Carolina on Wednesday.
The Miners were bumped into second place in the C-USA standings with Wednesday’s 64-51 loss at Southern Miss. UTEP is a half-game behind front-running Memphis (20-6, 8-3 C-USA). Four teams -- SMU, Southern Miss, Tulsa and UAB -- have four league losses as the conference race heads into the stretch drive.
UTEP will be home for four of its the next five C-USA games before closing out the regular season at SMU on March 5.
The Miners are seeking their first season sweep of Houston since joining C-USA for the 2005-06 season.
Saturday’s game will be nationally televised on CBS College Sports, with Jason Knapp and Wally Szczerbiak calling the action.
With one more victory, the Miners will have 20 wins for the 24th time in school history and for the third consecutive season.
The Cougars have fallen on hard times after opening the C-USA slate with a 3-1 record. Since then Houston has dropped six of seven games, including a 57-52 loss at home to the Miners, although four of the six losses have come by eight points or less with two in overtime.
Houston is 2-8 on the road this season with narrow setbacks at Louisiana Tech (60-54), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (81-78 in OT), Rice (79-71 in OT), East Carolina (74-70) and Tulsa (76-71 in OT).
The Cougars are coming off a 65-51 home loss to SMU on Wednesday. Senior forward Maurice McNeil scored 14 points and junior guard Darian Thibodeaux added 12 for UH.
Senior guard Adam Brown is averaging a team-leading 13.6 ppg, with McNeil collecting 13.2 ppg and 7.9 rpg. Senior guard Zamal Nixon is second in C-USA in steals (1.9 avg.) and third in assists (4.8 avg.).
Houston is second in C-USA in three-point field goal percentage (.389), and third in field goal percentage (.460).
UTEP leads the series 11-8. After the Cougars won two of the three head-to-head matchups last season -- including in the championship game of the C-USA Tournament -- the Miners broke through with a 57-52 win at Hofheinz Pavilion on Jan. 22.
The Miners have won eight of the nine games played between the state rivals in El Paso.
UTEP and Houston have played 14 games as members of C-USA, including three in the league’s postseason tournament. Thirteen of the 14 games have been determined by eight points or fewer.
UTEP Coach Tim Floyd is 1-0 versus Houston and 3-1 when coaching against Houston’s James Dickey.
Jeremy Williams’ free throws with 1:54 left gave UTEP a 51-50 lead, and Julyan Stone delivered the dagger on a three pointer with 19 seconds remaining as the Miners pulled out a 57-52 win at Houston on Jan. 22. The Miners won for just the second time in seven trips to Hofheinz Pavilion.
Houston took its last lead of the night at 50-49 on a pair of free throws by Adam Brown with 3:04 to play. Brown scored a game-high 22 points.
Following Williams’ free throws, the Cougars’ Zamal Nixon missed a jumper and Wayne Portalatin, who had made his first appearance of the night only seconds earlier, secured the defensive rebound for the Miners.
Randy Culpepper missed a jumper at the other end, but Williams grabbed the offensive rebound. On the next play, Culpepper was double teamed at the top of the key and found the open Stone for the trifecta.
Brown missed a jumper on the other end, Stone snared the defensive rebound and the Miners closed it out with free throws.
Stone’s three pointer was his only field goal of the night, but he finished with six assists and 14 rebounds as UTEP outrebounded Houston 43-31. The Miners had a 14-3 edge in offensive rebounds.
Culpepper scored 18 points and Williams added 15 for the Miners.
The Miners took their largest lead of the night at 17-10 midway through the first half before Houston rallied to take a 29-28 edge at the break. The game featured 12 ties and eight lead changes.