EL PASO, Texas – So far in the 2022-23 season, the road hasn’t been friendly to UTEP men’s basketball.
The Miners (8-4, 1-0 Conference USA) are 8-1 at home, but so far they’re 0-3 outside of the Sun City in 2022-23. That doesn’t figure to get any easier on Thursday, when UTEP travels to Birmingham to square off with C-USA favorite, UAB (10-2, 1-0) at 5:30 p.m. MT.
UAB leads the series with UTEP, 16-9, aided by seven straight wins. The Blazers claimed both meetings last year, including a narrow 69-66 victory in El Paso in the most-recent match-up (Feb. 26, 2022). UTEP is in search of its first win against UAB since Feb. 2, 2017, (W, 63-59 at Haskins Center. A victory in Birmingham would be the Miners’ first road win in the series since a 63-61 triumph on Jan. 18, 2014.
The Blazers are led by Jelly Walker, the reigning C-USA Player of the Year and are coming off a trip to the NCAA Tournament last March. Walker currently leads the nation in scoring at 24.6 points per game.
UTEP is in search of its first 2-0 start to C-USA play since the 2012-13 season (finished 10-6 in the league). The Miners have already made some noise this year with the 60-55 vanquishing of LA Tech on Dec. 17 affording them their first victory to begin C-USA action in seven years.
Defending C-USA tournament champion and preseason league favorite UAB is rolling in 2022-23, sporting a 10-2 mark (1-0 C-USA). That includes wins against SEC foes Georgia and South Carolina. The Blazers are undefeated at home (8-0), with each of those victories by at least eight points.
The Blazers are an experienced group with seven players with 100+ games played and five 1,000+ point scorers. Eric Gaines (11.1 ppg) and KJ Buffen (10.8 ppg) are also in double figures for scoring for UAB, which is first in C-USA and fifth nationally at 86.9 points per game.