EL PASO – The undefeated UTEP men’s basketball team, coming off a dramatic rivalry win over New Mexico, will look to extend its winning streak when the Miners (4-0) host East Central University (4-1) on Wednesday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Don Haskins Center.
“Every game on our schedule is a big game,” said UTEP head coach Rodney Terry. “The next game on our schedule is a big game for us. Every game on our schedule is an NCAA Tournament game. Our guys, they understand that and embrace that.”
Christmas came early for Terry and the Miners when it was announced that sophomore transfer Kaden Archie was deemed immediately eligible late Friday afternoon by the NCAA. Archie, a 6’6 transfer from TCU who arrived during the midway point of last season, will suit up Wednesday night and add to an already deep squad.
UTEP has flexed its depth in four games this season with four players averaging double figures in scoring and the bench contributing 20.8 points per game. A different player has led the Miners in scoring in the first four games of the season (Efe Odigie, Bryson Williams, Deon Stroud, Daryl Edwards) for the first time since the 2003-2004 season, when Chris Craig, Roy Smallwood, Filiberto Rivera and Omar Thomas were the leading scorers in respective games versus UT-Permian Basin, Sul Ross State, Portland State and Texas Tech. The streak reached five games in ’03-’04 as Jason Williams led the Miners in scoring at New Mexico State that year.
The Miners’ 4-0 start is their first since the 2015-2016 season when they came out of the gate 6-0. UTEP is also the last undefeated program in Conference USA after Western Kentucky (5-1) took a loss to Bowling Green on November 22. The Miners are one of four remaining Texas teams with an unblemished mark along with SMU, TCU and Texas Tech.
The biggest element to the undefeated start has been the efforts of 6’8 power forward Williams, the squad’s leading scorer at 14.3 points per game. Williams has connected on 66.7 of his field goal attempts, which ranks 17th nationally.
“We all know it’s about winning,” said Williams. “We all know at the end of the day it’s about getting a W on that schedule. That’s the great thing about this team. Everyone knows what’s at hand.”
Grad transfer Daryl Edwards came up with a clutch performance, scoring 18 points against the Lobos and limiting UNM’s leading scorer JaQuan Lyle to a 4-for-12 shooting night. Sophomore guard Jordan Lathon, who has been UTEP’s go-to guy during late-game nail biters, hit the go-ahead jumper with 27 seconds left to help propel the Miners to victory. Lathon only played six minutes (0-1 from field) in the first half during last week’s contest, but was on the floor for all 20 in the second half. All 10 of his points came during the second period on a 4-for-6 shooting effort.
East Central (4-1) is coming off an 81-80 home win against Great American Conference opponent Southern Nazarene Saturday night. The Tigers rallied from five points down at the half behind Camron Talley’s 26 points. Gerren Jackson totaled 15 points and nine rebounds, while Josh Apple chipped in with 11 points and also grabbed nine boards.
Talley ranks second in Division II, averaging 25.4 points per game. He is also first nationally in minutes per game (35.4), and 12th in three-point field goals made per game (4.25). Jackson is putting up 12.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest. Apple is averaging a team-best 11.0 rebounds per game to rate 14th in D-II.
East Central Head Coach Ja Havens is in his seventh at the helm. The Tigers went 16-12 last season, but Havens has a trio of 20-plus win seasons under his belt. The Tigers finished 21-10 in his second year (2014-2015), while going 22-8 (2015-2016) and 25-8 (2016-2017) the next two campaigns.