UTEP Travels to Face NMSU Saturday Night


POSTED: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 3:32pm

UPDATED: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 7:00pm

UTEP (1-1) plays at NM State (2-0) in the renewal of the SONIC Battle of I-10 Rivalry Series on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Las Cruces. The teams will square off in El Paso on Dec. 11. It marks UTEP’s first road game of the season. The Miners will be on the road for three of the next five contests, including playing at Oregon on Nov. 29 and UNLV on Dec. 14. Saturday’s game is NMSU’s home opener.

The Miners are starting fresh this season with nine newcomers, including a Division I transfer (junior guard Jacques Streeter), a junior college transfer (junior forward Malcolm Moore) 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 Aggies are 2-0 and coming off an impressive 62-53 win at New Mexico on Wednesday. NMSU held the Lobos to a .280 field goal percentage (.190 in the second half) and shot 60 percent from the floor over the final 20 minutes in erasing a 31-26 halftime deficit.

NMSU is big (six players 6-8 or taller on the 2011-12 roster) and experienced (three seniors and three juniors). Four Aggies are averaging over 10 points per game -- senior forward Wendell McKines (16.0 ppg), junior forward Bandja Sy (12.5 ppg), sophomore guard Christian Kabongo (12.0 ppg) and senior guard Hernst Laroche (12.5 ppg). McKines averages 9.5 rebounds per game, and senior center Hamidu Rahman also provides an inside presence with 8.0 points and 6.5 boards per outing. The Aggies are shooting 48.5 percent from the field and have a rebound margin of +7.0 per game on the year.

NMSU has made more free throws (47) than its opponents have attempted (42) this season, although the Aggies shoot just 59.5 percent from the foul line as a team.

NM State holds a 101-100 edge in the series ledger. The Aggies are 54-40 versus the Miners in games played at Las Cruces, including 23-21 at the Pan American Center. One team has swept the season series in seven of the last nine years. NMSU won both matchups during the 2002-03 and 2006-07 seasons, and the Miners swept the Aggies during the 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06, 2007-08 and 2010-11 campaigns.

This season marks the 18th time in 22 years that UTEP and New Mexico State have opened their two-game set in Las Cruces. Three of the last five matchups in the City of the Crosses have been decided by either one or two points.

UTEP’s Tim Floyd is 3-0 when coaching against NMSU. Marvin Menzies was coach of the Aggies all three times. Floyd’s USC Trojans, then ranked no. 19 in the nation, topped the Aggies on Nov. 18, 2008 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, 73-60. UTEP swept NMSU a year ago, winning 73-56 in El Paso and 74-72 in Las Cruces.

Floyd and Menzies both coached at USC previously. Floyd was the head coach there from 2005-09 and Menzies was an assistant during the 2003-04 season.

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