UTEP expecting to be shorthanded vs. Louisiana Tech on Thursday night


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Due to a variety of issues, including injuries, personal reasons and COVID-19, UTEP is expecting to be shorthanded vs. Louisiana Tech in its Conference USA home opener on Thursday.

The Miners had plenty of players at their disposal at practice on Wednesday evening and as of Wednesday, head coach Joe Golding said they were good to go to play the Bulldogs. However, things had to be moved around due to a variety of road bumps.

“We’ll be a little shorthanded, we’ve got some things going on just like everyone else in the country. We won’t have our full roster tomorrow, but right now, as of today, at the end of practice, we have enough to compete,” said Golding. “We’re still doing some different things but hopefully tomorrow we wake up and have enough guys to play the game. That’s the plan as we speak right now.”

Across college basketball, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has hit hard, like it has across all sports and the entire world as a whole. UTEP’s road game at Middle Tennessee last Saturday was postponed due to COVID-19 cases in the Blue Raiders program.

The UTEP women had its C-USA games at Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss postponed due to COVID-19 on Tuesday, as UTEP currently has just three healthy players. The NCAA requires seven healthy players to play a game.

Golding again confirmed on Wednesday that Keonte Kennedy would be out for some time with a foot injury. Officially classified as week-to-week, Kennedy is in a walking boot and using a scooter to move around meaning it will likely be quite a while before he returns.

“You have to adjust on the fly,” Golding said. “For instance today, we found out 30 minutes before practice that Player A can’t go, Player B can’t go, Player C, and you have to adjust your practice schedule to go. So it’s been things like that, obviously frustrating at times but we have to continue to fight.”

At practice for the first time on Wednesday was San Diego State transfer Che Evans, who the Miners are hoping to get eligible immediately so he can play at some point in the 2021-22 season. Evans still has to get enrolled in classes and jump through a few hoops with UTEP’s compliance department. The Miners are hopeful he’ll be able to practice next week.

After getting eligible this season, Golding said on Monday that the decision will be completely up to the NCAA and they haven’t set a timeline for him to become eligible. Sources told KTSM earlier this week that San Diego State is working with the Miners to help Evans get eligible and would also like to see him be able to play this season. That could help Evans’ case with the NCAA.

On the court, UTEP (7-6, 0-1 C-USA) will have to contend with a talented Louisiana Tech team (11-3, 2-0 C-USA), featuring bruising big man Kenneth Lofton Jr.

The Miners and Bulldogs will tip off at 8 p.m. MT on Thursday night at the Don Haskins Center, with the game airing on national television on CBS Sports Network.

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