UTEP Men hope to 'cook' Rice on Saturday
UTEP (15-12, 8-5 C-USA) plays a second straight game against a Houston school on Saturday when it takes on Rice (5-22, 1-12 C-USA) at Tudor Fieldhouse. The Miners knocked off Houston, 63-53, at the Don Haskins Center on Wednesday. UTEP is closing in on a first-round bye at the Conference USA Tournament. If the tournament started today, the Miners would be the third seed with UCF ineligible to participate.
- The Miners are a game up on the next team in the standings, East Carolina, and own the tiebreaker over the Pirates with a 68-67 win in Greenville on Jan. 26.
- Memphis and Southern Miss have clinched byes in the tournament. Entering play on Saturday, there are five times battling for the other three spots -- UTEP, East Carolina, Tulane, Tulsa and UAB. If the Miners win on Saturday, the loser of the Tulane and Tulsa game later in the afternoon would be eliminated from contention for a bye. UAB would also be eliminated with a loss at home to SMU.
- The Miners are 2-7 on the road this season, including 2-4 in Conference USA play, and have lost four straight road games overall to UAB (78-72 in overtime), Houston (79-61), Southern Miss (45-39) and NM State (55-51).
- In three of its seven road losses, UTEP has led in the final two and a half minutes. The Miners were ahead 55-54 at Colorado State with 2:27 remaining, 64-62 at UAB with six seconds left in regulation, and 51-50 at NM State with 1:13 to play.
- UTEP also missed a potential game-tying three pointer in the final seconds of a 45-42 loss at Tulsa, and led by as many as nine points in the second half at Southern Miss.
- The Miners are 5-4 in the month of March under coach Tim Floyd. The Miners will play three C-USA games in March for the first time since the 2007-08 season, including hosting Memphis on Tuesday before closing out the regular season at SMU on March 9.
- UTEP has surpassed its C-USA victory total from last season (seven) and is one win away from exceeding its total number of victories for the 2011-12 campaign (15).
- UTEP is 76-47 all-time in Conference USA play. Only Memphis (110) and UAB (80) have posted more C-USA victories since the league’s realignment for the 2005-06 season.
- The Owls have lost seven consecutive games heading into Saturday’s matinee with the Miners, including three straight on their home floor to East Carolina (79-63), SMU (61-39) and Tulane (89-64).
- All five of the Owls’ victories have come at Tudor Fieldhouse, where they have defeated St. Edward’s (75-63), Houston Baptist (61-53), Chicago State (63-60), New Orleans (95-71) and Houston (79-69).
- Rice has outrebounded just two opponents in 27 games this season -- St. Edward’s (42-34) and UTEP (30-27).
- Senior guard Tamir Jackson averages 16.4 points, and freshman guard Max Guercy averages 10.2 points.
- Guercy is a four-time Conference USA Freshman of the Week.
- The Owls are last in C-USA in scoring offense (60.0 ppg), scoring margin (-10.4 ppg), field goal percentage (.398), field goal percentage defense (.488), three-point field goal percentage defense (.371), rebound margin (-11.6 rpg), blocked shots (1.1 bpg) and assists (11.0 apg). Rice is second in turnover margin (+2.0) and three pointers made per game (7.3), and third in free throw percentage (.727).
- Rice has attempted the second-most three point shots (596) in the league behind East Carolina (597). The Owls are also second in C-USA in three-point makes (197) behind the Pirates (201).
- Rice’s top three point shooters are Guercy (40-for-99, .404), junior guard Austin Ramljak (59-for-159, .371) and sophomore guard Julian DeBose (26-for-71, .366).
- The Miners lead the series 15-11 and have won 11 of the last 15 meetings between the schools.
- The Owls have won seven of the previous 11 matchups between the schools in Houston, but the Miners are 2-1 versus Rice at Tudor Fieldhouse (formerly Autry Court) with a 67-58 victory during the 2008-09 season and a 59-53 win a year ago. Last year, Julian DeBose sank a jumper as time expired, giving the Owls a 77-75 triumph over the Miners. UTEP had battled back from a seven-point deficit in the final three minutes to take the lead with 24 seconds remaining.
- UTEP’s Tim Floyd will be coaching against Rice’s Ben Braun for the 13th time on Saturday. Floyd is 7-5 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.