UTEP Basketball Prepares for Road Trip to Rice
UTEP (17-5, 5-2 C-USA) returns to action on Saturday at Rice (11-11, 3-5 C-USA). The Miners are playing their first game in a week after Wednesday’s scheduled matchup with UCF at the Don Haskins Center was postponed due to the effects of a winter storm in El Paso. The Miners lost at Tulsa, 69-68, in their last game on Jan. 29. Rice is coming off a 71-61 victory at Tulane on Wednesday, its third win in four games. The Owls are 1-3 at home and 2-2 on the road in C-USA play this season, but the three home losses have come by a total of 14 points -- to Tulane (85-81), Southern Miss (81-78 in overtime) and SMU (75-68).
Saturday’s game officially marks the midway point of the Miners’ 2011 Conference USA schedule.
UTEP gained ground in the C-USA standings without playing on Wednesday. The two teams tied with the Miners for first place in the league, Memphis and UAB, both suffered home losses. The Miners are now alone in first place in C-USA, percentage points ahead of Southern Miss (17-5, 6-3) and a half-game in front of Memphis, UAB, SMU and Tulsa.
Junior guard Connor Frizzelle scored a career-high 25 points and sophomore forward Arsalan Kazemi collected a personal best 19 rebounds in the Owls’ 71-61 triumph at Tulane on Wednesday. Rice had a big second half, outscoring Tulane 40-30 and shooting 61.9 percent from the field. The Owls were 18-for-20 from the line on the night and committed only nine turnovers.
Kazemi leads Rice, averaging 16.3 points and 12.0 rebounds with 14 double-doubles. Sophomore guard Tamir Jackson is averaging 13.0 ppg and Frizzelle 10.8 ppg.
Kazemi leads C-USA in rebounding and ranks second in field goal percentage (.560) behind SMU’s Papa Dia (.582). Frizzelle is second in the league in free throw percentage (.910), making 61-of-67 attempts.
The Owls are 8-4 at Tudor Fieldhouse this season, including wins over LSU and TCU.
The Miners lead the series 13-9 and have won nine of the last 11 meetings between the schools. This season marks the first time since 2004-05, and the first time as C-USA members, that UTEP and Rice have faced one another twice in league play.
The Owls have won six of the previous nine matchups between the schools in Houston, but the Miners are 1-0 versus Rice at Tudor Fieldhouse (formerly Autry Court) with a 67-58 victory on Feb. 18, 2009.
UTEP’s Tim Floyd will be coaching against Rice’s Ben Braun for the ninth time on Saturday. Floyd is 5-3 against Braun-led squads, with six of the previous matchups taking place when Floyd was at USC and Braun was at Cal. Another transpired during the 1991-92 season when Floyd was at New Orleans and Braun was coaching at Eastern Michigan.