UTEP Closes Out Regular Season at SMU Saturday


POSTED: Friday, March 4, 2011 - 5:26pm

UPDATED: Friday, March 4, 2011 - 10:38pm

UTEP (22-8, 10-5 C-USA) closes out the 2010-11 regular season at SMU (17-12, 8-7 C-USA) on Saturday at 1 p.m. MT. The game will be televised in El Paso on Time Warner Sports Channel 24.
The Miners are tied for second place in the C-USA standings with Tulsa (17-12, 10-5) and fighting to earn a top-four seed and first round bye in next week’s Buick Conference USA Championships in El Paso. UTEP stands a game back of front-running UAB (21-7, 11-4). Southern Miss (21-8, 9-6) and Memphis (21-9, 9-6) are tied for fourth place, while Marshall (20-10, 8-7) and SMU (17-12, 8-7 C-USA) are tied for sixth place.
UAB and Tulsa have clinched byes in the first round of the C-USA Championships. Four teams -- UTEP, Memphis, SMU and Southern Miss -- are in contention for the other two spots.

The Miners will clinch a bye with a win over SMU. UTEP can also clinch a bye with a loss to SMU, coupled with Tulsa defeating Southern Miss on Saturday night. The Miners could be seeded anywhere from second to fifth in the C-USA Championships depending on the outcome of Saturday’s games. The best case scenario has UTEP beating SMU and Southern Miss beating Tulsa and the Miners would secure a second seed in the tournament.

The Mustangs are coming off consecutive heartbreak road losses to Marshall (64-62) and UCF (March 2). SMU will honor seniors Papa Dia, Ryan Harp, Tomasz Kwiatkowski, Myles Luttman, Collin Mangrum and Mike Walker prior to their final home game at Moody Coliseum on Saturday.
The Mustangs are 13-5 at home this season, including 5-2 in C-USA action with wins over Memphis (64-58), Southern Miss (79-65), East Carolina (46-41), Tulane (66-61) and Rice (76-66 in OT).
Dia leads the team in scoring (18.5 ppg) and rebounding (9.1 rpg). Junior forward Robert Nyakundi is averaging 15.4 ppg and shooting 48.6 percent from three-point territory (53.8 percent in conference play). SMU leads C-USA in all three shooting categories -- field goal percentage (.486), three-point field goal percentage (.401) and free throw percentage (.759). The Mustangs are also first in the league in scoring defense (61.7 ppg) and three pointers made per game (8.2).

UTEP leads the series 23-14 and has won 15 of the last 16 matchups between the schools. The Miners are 11-1 versus SMU since joining Conference USA.
The Mustangs have enjoyed an 8-7 advantage in games played in Dallas, although the Miners have emerged victorious in six of the last seven meetings between the schools at Moody Coliseum.
UTEP’s Tim Floyd is 1-0 against SMU and Matt Doherty.

Julyan Stone scored all 11 of his points in the second half and turned in a lockdown defensive performance on SMU’s Robert Nyakundi as UTEP pulled out a 67-57, comefrom-behind win over the Mustangs on Feb. 12 at the Don Haskins Center.

Like the last two matchups between the state rivals in El Paso, this one went down to the wire. SMU led 36-32 at the half and maintained its advantage until Jeremy Williams knotted the score at 50 on a jumper with 7:20 to play.

With the game deadlocked at 52, Stone buried a three-pointer at the 6:11 mark to put the Miners ahead to stay. UTEP extended the lead to 57-52 on two free throws by Gabriel McCulley with 4:33 left. SMU couldn’t get closer than four points the rest of the way, as the Miners scored the game’s final six points.

The game-changing run spanned from 7:55 to 4:33 in the second half. UTEP outscored SMU 11-2 during that stretch, turning a 50-46 deficit into a 57-52 lead.

Stone added seven assists and went 4-for-4 at the charity stripe for the Miners, who finished 15-for-19 at the line -- including 13-for-15 in the second half.

After SMU shot 53.3 percent in the first half and canned 5-of-12 three pointers, UTEP buckled down defensively, holding the visitors to 21 points on 8-for-20 shooting (2-for-9 from outside) over the final 20 minutes.

Stone, meanwhile, held Nyakundi -- averaging 16 points coming in -- to one field goal and four points.
Christian Polk led four UTEP players in double figures with 18 points, while Randy Culpepper added 14 and Williams 10. Papa Dia paced SMU with 18 points and nine rebounds.

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