UTEP still looking for road win at Houston


POSTED: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 12:20pm

UPDATED: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 6:35pm

In the midst of three straight Conference USA road games, UTEP (10-10, 3-3 C-USA) takes on Houston (10-9, 2-4 C-USA) at Hofheinz Pavilion on Saturday. The Miners will play two games in Space City over the next five days, including facing Rice on Wednesday at Tudor Fieldhouse.

Both the Miners and the Cougars were idle on Wednesday. UTEP is coming off a 66-58 loss at Tulane on Jan. 21, while Houston beat East Carolina at home on the same night, 82-76.

Houston is 9-4 at home this season, including 2-1 in C-USA action with wins over Tulsa (70-69 in overtime) and East Carolina, and an 89-55 loss to Memphis. The Cougars had dropped four straight games before knocking off the Pirates. UTEP, meanwhile, will try to avoid its first losing streak since late November by sweeping the Cougars, who they beat in El Paso on Jan. 7 by the score of 70-50.

UTEP bench personnel will be wearing sneakers instead of dress shoes on Saturday as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer program.

The Miners are starting fresh this season with nine newcomers, including a Division I transfer (junior guard Jacques Streeter) and seven freshmen. UTEP returns just three letterwinners and one starter (senior forward Gabriel McCulley) from last year’s unit that finished 25-10 overall and tied for second place in Conference USA with an 11-5 mark. The Miners lost 82.5 percent of their scoring and 70.6 percent of their rebounding production from the 2010-11 squad, which had eight seniors.

The Cougars have posted a 1-3 mark since losing at UTEP on Jan. 7. Houston has won seven of its last eight games at Hofheinz Pavilion after posting a 2-3 record in its first five home games.

Houston is second in C-USA in scoring offense (74.5 ppg), free throw percentage (.714) and three-point field goal percentage (.380), and third in field goal percentage (.474) and blocked shots (5.5 avg.). The Cougars have four players with double-figure scoring averages -- junior guard Jonathon Simmons (14.4 ppg), sophomore forward Alandise Harris (13.8 ppg), freshman forward TaShawn Thomas (10.4 ppg) and freshman guard Joseph Young (10.3 ppg).

UTEP leads the series 13-8. The Miners are 2-5 at Hofheinz Pavilion, although they did win there last season, 57-52. All seven games have been decided by 10 points or less.

Last year UTEP swept the regular season series from the Cougars for the first time since joining C-USA. UTEP and Houston have played 16 games as members of C-USA, including three in the league’s postseason tournament. Thirteen of the 16 games have been determined by eight points or fewer.

UTEP Coach Tim Floyd is 3-0 versus Houston and 5-1 when coaching against James Dickey.

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