EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP will look to halt a three-game losing skid as the Miners play host to Western Kentucky on Thursday night at the Don Haskins Center. ‘Texas Western Night’ will tipoff at 7 p.m.
The Miners (13-12, 4-8 Conference USA) have lost 12 of their last 17 games since winning the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational in December. Fans have their own theories where this season has gone wrong, but UTEP head coach Rodney Terry points to defense.
“Defense is all want-to. If you want to play hard on defense, you’ll play hard on defense. If you are bought in, you’ll play hard on defense. It’ll mean something to you, it matters,” Terry said. “We’ve struggled with that at times this year. For whatever reason, we’ve been fragile mentally. I don’t think it has a lot to do with physical.”
Terry also believes his team needs to buy-in. The Miners started the season 8-1 and since that time, have lost sight of what’s really important.
“There are no individual accolades if your team doesn’t win,” Terry said. “Young, inexperienced, sometimes listening to the wrong people causes that for you. That kind of seeped into our team a little bit and caused us some problems.”
Conference USA is notoriously a one-bid league to the NCAA Tournament. Theoretically, whoever wins the Conference USA Tournament in March will be the only team representing the conference in ‘The Dance.’ With that being said, the Miners still have all their goals in front of them, but the Hilltoppers (16-8, 9-3 C-USA) are one of the mid-majors in the country. WKU is 7-2 in its last nine games and present a lot of problems for UTEP.
WKU lost Charles Bassey (15.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg) 10 games into the season due to injury, as junior Taveion Hollingsworth has been the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.8 points game. The 6-2 guard also leads the Hilltoppers in assists (67) and is averaging 17.7 points his last 10 games.
Daryl Edwards has been a bright spot for the Miners as of late, averaging 20.0 points per game in two road losses last week. Edwards has also added a 9-for-16 (56.3 percent) mark from three-point range, while totaling six assists.
The matchup might not have the interest it could have had if UTEP’s fortunes were different, but Terry believes Miners fans need to stick it out.
“I understand people want it right now,” Terry said. “We all want it right now too, more than they want it. Just stay with us, stay the course. If you support, support through the good, the bad – true supporters do that.”
Following WKU, UTEP will host Marshall on Saturday before Conference USA ‘Bonus Play’ games are announced on Sunday.