The UTEP men’s basketball team (3-0) will begin play in the SoCal Challenge with a home game against Austin Peay (2-1) at the Don Haskins Center at 7 p.m. MT Friday. Following the contest vs. the Governors, the Miners will head to the “Golden State” for neutral-site match-ups against Cal (Nov. 20) and either Tulane or Bradley (Nov. 22) to wrap up the MTE (multiple-team event). The Orange and Blue are coming off a signature victory, besting defending Big West Champion UC Santa Barbara, 89-76, on Nov. 13. After falling at George Mason, 67-45, Austin Peay bounced back last time out to derail Fisk University, 79-53, on Nov. 14. UTEP has scored at least 89 points in three straight games for the first time since a three-contest stretch (12/19/09-12/28/09) in 2009-10, including back-to-back 100-point outings. It marked the second time in school history that UTEP had produced consecutive contests with at least 100 points (1968-69 season was other).Steve Kaplowitz and Steve Yellen (21st year) will be on the call on “The Home of UTEP Basketball” 600 ESPN El Paso. It will also be streamed on ESPN+ (subscription required), with Duke Keith and former Miner Hooper Vint describing the action. Tickets start as low as $9.15. For more information, please visit www.UTEPMiners.com/tickets or call (915) 747-UTEP.
UTEP racked up 89 points in the win against UCSB, its highest total against a Division I opponent during the Joe Golding era. It also marked the most points in a nonconference regulation game vs. a DI foe since knocking off Norfolk State, 93-56, on Dec. 28, 2009. Coincidentally, that season (2009-10) was the last time the Orange and Blue competed in the NCAA Tournament.
SHINING ON NATIONAL TV
The Miners put on a show against UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 13, running past the Gauchos, 89-76, in front of a nationally-televised audience (CBS Sports Network). The Miners can improve upon the 1-0 mark in the situation with neutral match-ups vs. Cal on Nov. 20 (CBS Sports Network) and either Tulane or Bradley on Nov. 22 (CBS Sports Network).
GET TO KNOW AUSTIN PEAY
Austin Peay (2-1) has a new look to it in 2023-24, with first-year head coach Corey Gipson, a two-time graduate of the school. He took the position after guiding Northwestern State to a record of 22-11, finishing in second place the Southland Conference regular season and tournament championship. The 13-game turnaround for the school was the best in program history. Gipson isn’t the only one to venture to Austin Peay from Northwestern State. He brought with him eight members of the school’s coaching and support staff and six student-athletes, including 2023 Southern Conference Player of the Year and 2023 Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year DeMarcus Sharp. Through three games, he paces the team in points (15.7 ppg), rebounds (11.0 rpg), assists (5.4), steals (3.0 spg) and blocks (1.3). Dez White (14.0 ppg), Ja’Monta Black (12.0 ppg) and Dezi Jones (11.7 ppg) are also in double figures for Austin Peay, which is producing 71.3 points per game. White (10-31) and Black (12-35) have done the majority of their damage from 3-point range. The Governors are 2-1 on the year, most recently besting Fisk University, 79-52, on Nov. 14. Austin Peay is a stingy defensive team, leading the Ohio Valley Conference and ranking 85th in the country with a scoring defense of 63.7. It has defended the 3-point well, with foes making just 23.9 percent (second OVC/23rd NCAA) from distance. The Governors also take tremendous care of the ball (8.0 turnovers per game-first OVC/13th NCAA). Notable Austin Peay alumni include Bill Heydel, (co-founder of Cracker Barrel) and Bob Harper (personal trainer who gained fame on the Biggest Loser)
UTEP is 2-0 all time against Austin Peay, with both of the victories coming at home in the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational. The Miners defeated the Governors, 77-56, in the opening round of the invite on Dec. 28, 1992. UTEP previously emerged victorious, 74-64, in the third/fourth-place game on Dec. 29, 1989.
GOING BACK IN TIME
Zid Powell slashed his way for 23 points (17 first half), Tae Hardy netted 19 points and a game-high eight assists and Calvin Solomon registered a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) to help UTEP overwhelm the defending Big West Champions UC Santa Barbara, 89-76, in front of more than 7,000 raucous fans at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 13. The game was tied at 44 at the break before the Miners blitzed the Gauchos with an 8-0 run to start the second half, forcing a timeout from the 2023 NCAA Tournament team. The surge proved decisive, with UTEP never trailing from that point on. The lead swelled to as many as 17 (72-55, 10:38 2H), and the Orange and Blue cruised down the stretch for a signature victory. The basket to put UTEP up by 17 ended up as the number five play on Sportcenter’s top-10 list. As he was falling down, Tae Hardy somehow found Corey Camper Jr. for a fastbreak lay-up that brought the roof off the Haskins Center and eventually was seen by the nation.
COMING OUT PARTY FOR ZID
Zid Powell record a season-high 23 points, including 17 in the first half, to produce his first 20-point game as a Miner and seventh overall at the DI level. The Buffalo transfer eclipsed 20 points six times in his lone season with the Bulls, including torching the mighty Falcons of Bowling Green for a career-high 27 points on Jan. 17, 2023.
TAKING OUT A PRESEASON FAVORITE
UC Santa Barbara has been to two of the past three NCAA Tournaments and set a school record for wins (27) last year, but the Miners weren’t intimidated. UTEP led for 25 minutes, including essentially the entire second half, on the way to taking out the in the 2023-24 preseason favorites in the Big West .
GOOD NIGHT OFFENSIVELY
UTEP drilled 54.0 percent (34-63) from the floor, racked up 18 assists to only seven turnovers and pounded UCSB down low with 59 points in the paint.
TIGHT GAME IN FAVOR OF UTEP
There were seven ties and eight lead changes against UC Santa Barbara, but UTEP did hold the advantage for 25 minutes compared to 10 by the Gauchos.
GOT AFTER IT ON D TOO
The Miners forced 17 turnovers that led to 28 points in the triumph against UCSB. The visitors did manage to hit 48.1 percent (25-52) from the field, but UTEP held them to 35.7 percent (5-14) from 3-point range.
HOT SHOOTING TO START THE SEASON
UTEP has connected on better than 50.0 percent from the floor in all three of its games this year, with its “worst” effort being a readout of 54.0 percent (34-63) in the 89-76 victory against UCSB on Nov. 13. The end result has been the Miners leading the country at 58.5 percent (124-212).
SCORING UP AND DOWN THE ROSTER
Heading into the match-up with Austin Peay, six different players are in double figures for scoring. RS-freshman Elijah Jones (15.7 ppg) leads the way, followed by senior Tae Hardy (14.7 ppg)and Buffalo grad transfer Zid Powell (13.3 ppg). Junior Otis Frazier III (13.0 ppg) is next up, with JUCO Honorable-Mention All-American (Tyler JC) Corey Camper Jr. (12.7 ppg) and senior Calvin Solomon (11.7 ppg) rounding out the list. Aiding that balanced scoring were eight different Miners (most on record) hitting double figures in scoring in the 120-71 season-opening win against McMurry on Nov. 6.
Tae Hardy (14/11/19) and Calvin Solomon (12/11/12) have reached double figures in scoring in all three of the games this season. In fact, Solomon has a 10-contest surge dating to last season. Corey Camper Jr. (13/17/8), Otis Frazier III (12/18/9), Elijah Jones (19/19/9) and Zid Powell (9/8/23) have contributed at least eight points in each of the tilts.
SAME GOES FOR PLAYING TIME
Nine of the 10 Miners who have played in all three of the games are securing at least 10.0 minutes per game, including Tae Hardy (27.5 mpg) leading the way. Otis Frazier III (20.8 mpg), Corey Camper Jr. (20.7 mpg) and Zid Powell (20.4 mpg) are also above 20.0 mpg.
GIVE ME THAT BALL
UTEP has recorded 10+ steals in all three contests, helping it rate second in the country at 16.0 steals per game. That on-ball pressure has also been key to the opposition committing at least 17 turnovers in every tilt, which in turn has allowed the Miners to get out in transition. The Orange and Blue are producing 29.7 fastbreak points per game, which is third nationally.
LOTS ARE CAUSING PROBLEMS FOR OPPOSITION
Otis Frazier III leads the charge for steals with 3.7 per game (first CUSA/sixth NCAA), followed by Calvin Solomon at 2.33 steals per contest (third CUSA/96th NCAA). Zid Powell (2.0 spg-seventh CUSA), Elijah Jones (1.7 spg-12th CUSA) and David Terrell Jr. (1.7 spg-12th CUSA) have also been a problem for opponents. Last season, Solomon joined Randy Culpepper and Hall of Famer Tim Hardaway as the lone Miners in program history to average at least 2.0 steals per game.
KALU CRASHING THE BOARDS
Kevin Kalu has been all over the boards for the Miners early on in 2023-24. The junior is pulling down a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game (fourth CUSA), including 5.7 defensive boards per contest (third CUSA). Aiding that was a career-high 13 caroms against USAO on Nov. 9.
TOP-10 RANKINGS ALERT
It’s early on, but UTEP is ranked among the top-10 nationally in 11 different categories. The Miners lead the country in field-goal percentage (58.5) and are second in bench scoring (54.0), scoring offense (110.7) and steals per game (16.0). UTEP is also third in fastbreak scoring (29.7) and assists per game (25.7), fourth for turnovers forced per game (22.7), fifth in turnover margin (12.0), seventh for scoring margin (+37.7), ninth in free-throw attempts per game (31.0) and 10th for assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.41). The Orange and Blue pace CUSA in each of those categories.
WORTH THE WAIT
RS-freshman Elijah Jones joined UTEP as a midseason transfer from ECU last year, meaning his debut wouldn’t come until this season. The wait has been worth it, with Jones pacing the team in scoring at 15.7 points per game. He has been practically perfect from the floor, making 82.6 percent (19-23) to lead CUSA and rate sixth in the nation.
UTEP’s reserves have been key to the Miners’ 3-0 start on the year, with the bench pouring in 54.0 points per game. That average is second in the country, only behind Eastern Kentucky at 62.5. Overall, UTEP’s back-ups have compiled 162 points compared to just 65 from the opposition’s reserves, a differential of almost 100 (+97).
Derick Hamilton is a perfect 10-10 from the floor on the season. Elijah Jones hasn’t been bad either, hitting 19-23 (82.6 percent), putting him atop CUSA and sixth in the country (among 350 qualifiers) for field-goal percentage. Otis Frazier III also finds himself in the top-100 nationally, making 15-22 (68.2) to sit second in the league behind Jones and 48th in the country.
KNOCKING DOWN THE 3-BALL
UTEP has drilled 22-57 (38.6 percent) from 3-point range through three contests, which places it second in CUSA and 63rd nationally for 3-point percentage. The Miners hit nine treys in the opener vs. McMurry (11/6/23) before following that up with 10 against USAO (11/9/23). UTEP only had three contests last year in which it made at least nine triples. It’s a stark improvement thus far from the 2022-23 campaign, with UTEP finishing 346th in the nation with a readout of 29.4 percent (158-537) from beyond-the-arc.
TALKING 100-POINT GAMES
UTEP finished with the second-most points (120, now third) in program history in the win vs. McMurry on Nov. 6. The Miners followed that up with a school-record 123 points in routing USAO. It’s the first time UTEP has started a season with consecutive 100+ point showings. In fact, the only other time the Orange and Blue ever posted back-to-back 100-point games came during the 1968-69 season when they blasted Montana (103-90, 12/28/68) and then drilled Tahoe Paradise (109-63, 1/2/69). Prior to the outbursts this year, the Miners hadn’t topped 100 since besting Rice, 101-89, on Jan. 8, 2021. UTEP now stands at 33-2 all time when surpassing 100 points in a contest, including 31-0 in El Paso (22-0 at the Haskins Center). UTEP has won 18 straight games when hitting the century mark.
DUST OFF THE RECORD BOOKS
UTEP dented the record book in the first two games of the season.
-School-record 123 points vs. USAO (11/9) and third-most points (120) vs. McMurry (11/6). The 243 points are the most in a two-contest span in program history.
– Dished out a program-best 33 assists vs. McMurry, smashing prior standard of 29.
– School-record 50 field goals vs. McMurry, crushing previous mark (46) that had happened in both 1979 (vs. Illinois Tech, 12/22/79) and in 1966 (vs. NM State, 2/1/66).
– Second-most second-half points (71) at the school vs. USAO and tied for seventh-highest total (61) after the break against McMurry.
– Tied for fourth-most first-half points (59) against McMurry.
– Won back-to-back games by at least 49 points for first time ever, including tying for the seventh-biggest margin of victory (51) vs. USAO (W, 123-71).
– Posted 19 steals vs. McMurry, tying as the third most at the school, while the 18 thefts against USAO earned a share of fifth place.
STAYING HOME EARLY
UTEP is playing four straight (3-0 thus far) to start the season at home, something that hasn’t happened since the 2019-20 campaign when it had five consecutive home games out of the gate (5-0 record). That included knocking off rivals NM State and New Mexico within the span of a week that year.
THE BEST FANS IN CONFERENCE USA
UTEP led Conference USA in attendance last year in both total number of fans (81,941) and average attendance (4,552). It marked the second straight season that the Miners have paced CUSA in at least one of those categories. Last year, UTEP’s advantage for per-game average was noticeable, with WKU more than 500 fans behind on average at 4,026.
MORE THAN A MILLION FANS
UTEP has attracted more than one million fans to the Don Haskins Center over the past decade. A total of 1,116,176 individuals have passed through the turnstiles from the beginning of the 2012-13 campaign to the end of the 2022-23 season. That figure makes the Miners the only school out of the nine members in Conference USA to have topped one million fans in that timeframe.
UTEP is in search of its fifth straight season with at least 10 wins at home. The Miners compiled 11 victories at the Haskins Center last year, including going 3-0 at the inaugural Jim Forbes Classic Presented by Speaking Rock to claim the crown. The Orange and Blue are off to a 3-0 start in the Sun City this year, with a +37.7 (110.7-73.0) scoring differential.
UTEP returned its leading scorer (Tae Hardy-12.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.2 spg) and rebounder (Calvin Solomon-6.0 rpg, 9.6 ppg, 2.0 apg, 2.0 spg) from last year’s team. Overall, the Miners brought back 54.3 percent of their scoring and 50.5 percent of their rebounding. It is a stark difference from the situation the Orange and Blue faced going into the 2022-23 campaign, when they had just 20.8 percent of the rebounding and 11.1 percent of the scoring back. UTEP has seven lettermen in the fold, including three starters (Hardy, Solomon and Otis Frazier III; 7.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg). Jon Dos Anjos (4.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg), Derick Hamilton (2.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg), Antwonne Holmes and Kevin Kalu are the other returning lettermen. The Miners landed six newcomers, including junior-college All-American Corey Camper Jr. (19.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.0 apg at Tyler JC) and DI transfers Zid Powell (13.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.9 spg at Buffalo) and Baylor Hebb (Colorado State). UTEP also has a pair of true freshmen (Trey Horton III, David Terrell Jr.) and another JUCO transfer (Sebastian Cole). Garrett Levesque (Tarleton State) and Elijah Jones (ECU) have also made their respective Miner debuts after redshirting the 2022-23 campaign.
UTEP has ample DI experience across its roster, with a combined 454 games played (210 starts) among the Miners as of the beginning of the 2023-24 season. Calvin Solomon leads with way with 114 appearances (88 starts).
UTEP seniors Tae Hardy and Calvin Solomon were tabbed to the 2023-24 CUSA All-Preseason Team in a vote by the league’s nine head coaches. The Miners joined Middle Tennessee and WKU as the only programs in the conference to have a pair of members on the squad.
UTEP joined Conference USA as the newest school in the league for the 2005-06 campaign. It entered the 2023-24 season as the most-tenured member. The 11 programs who were part of CUSA when the Miners moved to it have since departed to other conferences. Joining UTEP as returning league members are FIU, LA Tech, Middle Tennessee and WKU while Jax State, Liberty, NM State and Sam Houston are all in their first year.
CUSA IS UP FOR GRABS
UTEP was predicted to finish fifth in Conference USA in 2023-24, but it’s anyone’s guess as to who will take home the regular season crown this season with so much turnover in the league. Five of the top six teams from the standings a year ago have departed for other conferences, including regular season and tournament champion Florida Atlantic. FAU made waves nationally by making a run to the Final Four in the NCAA. The second (North Texas) and third-place (UAB) teams squared off in the NIT finale, and fifth-place Charlotte won the CBI. In fact, only one team (Middle Tennessee) that finished among the top six in the regular season last year is back. Incidentally, the Blue Raiders and newcomer Liberty are picked to win the league, followed by WKU (third), LA Tech (fourth), the Miners (fifth), Sam Houston (sixth), FIU (seventh), NM State (eighth) and Jax State (ninth).
AND THEN THERE WERE TWO
It’s extremely early in the season, but UTEP (3-0) and Liberty (2-0) are the only two programs in CUSA to still be undefeated. Nationally, there are 100 teams with a perfect winning percentage.
A YEAR IN REVIEW
– UTEP had a new-look squad in 2022-23 with head coach Joe Golding having to overhaul the roster after the Miners returned just one starter and three letterwinners total from a 20-win team a year prior.
– The Orange and Blue managed a 14-18 record, including a 67-64 victory against NM State on Nov. 12, 2022, for their first win against the Aggies in three years. That was the start of a five-game winning streak, which was aided by back-to-back OT triumphs.
– The five straight victories in November were the longest in the month in four years, which was aided by a mark of 3-0 in the inaugural Jim Forbes Classic Presented by Speaking Rock.
– The Miners came within a point of winning the WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational, falling 47-46 to eventual NCAA Tournament participant Kent State on Dec. 22, 2022. UTEP experienced a tough 1-4 stretch early in league play, with those four setbacks by a combined 14 points.
– UTEP remained resilient on the way to forging seven league triumphs, capped by a 77-65 “Senior Day” triumph against Middle Tennessee on March 4, 2023.
– The Orange and Blue tied the single-season school record for overtime games at five, matching the 1994-95 and 2011-12 teams. All five of the OT games were in the regular season, which are the most ever at the school. Both the 1994-95 and 2011-12 Miners had in four OT games during the regular season and one postseason OT tilt.
THE BASIC FACTS ON UTEP
– This is the 103rd season of UTEP men’s basketball. The Miners made history by starting five African-Americans to defeat Kentucky, 72-65, and win the 1966 NCAA Championship on the way to inspiring the Disney hit movie Glory Road.
– UTEP has 17 NCAA Tournament appearances (last in 2010), 11 NIT bids (last in 2015), 12 conference championships (last in 2010) and 26 seasons with at least 20+ victories (last in 2015). The Miners have won five league tournaments (last in 2005).
– The Miners have a strong presence in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with Don Haskins, Nate Archibald, Nolan Richardson, the 1966 team and Tim Hardaway all representing UTEP.
GET TO KNOW COACH GOLDING
Joe Golding is in his third year at UTEP, and is the 20th head coach in program history. He is the eighth head coach for the Miners since legendary Hall of Fame Coach Don Haskins retired following the 1998-99 season. Golding is 195-176 in his 13th season as a collegiate head coach, including 37-32 at UTEP. Those 37 wins already place him tied for ninth at the school with Rodney Terry for career victories. He has a chance to climb to into sixth place by year’s end. In 2021-22 he became the fourth head coach (20 total) in program history to have a winning season in their first year on the sideline. Don Haskins was the first when he directed the Miners to a mark of 18-6 in 1961-62. Doc Sadler (27-8, 2004-05) and Tim Floyd (25-10, 2010-11) also achieved the feat. Overall, the prior 19 head coaches combined to forge an average record of 9-13 in their first year with UTEP. Previously Golding spent 10 years at Abilene Christian (158-144), helping it transition from a Division II to a Division I program. Golding led the Wildcats to the 2019 and 2021 NCAA Tournaments, including a stunning upset as a 14-seed of third-seeded Texas in the first round of the 2021 Big Dance.
UTEP will continue play in the SoCal Challenge by venturing to San Juan Capistrano, Calif., where it will face Pac-12 member Cal at 9:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. MT on Monday (Nov. 20). The contest will be broadcast on 600 ESPN El Paso. It will also be carried nationally on CBS Sports Network.