UTEP men open Golden Turkey Classic on Monday with tough bout with UC Riverside


The UTEP men’s basketball team (2-1) opens up a stretch with three straight and six of eight at home to wrap up nonconference action when it plays host to UC Riverside (3-2) in its first game of the Cerebros Sports Golden Turkey Classic at 7 p.m. MT Monday (Nov. 22).

The Miners are riding a two-game winning streak after picking up their first road win of the season, 73-64, at Pacific on Nov. 19. UTEP is also looking to protect its homecourt, where it sports a perfect 2-0 mark on the young year.

The Orange and Blue have their work cut out for them, with UCR already boasting a buzzer-beating three-fourths of the floor shot to emerge victorious at Pac 12 member Arizona State, 66-65, on Nov. 11. UCR has won three of the past four, including a 95-57 thrashing of Bethesda last time out on Nov. 20. 

UTEP is 3-0 all time against UCR, with all three meetings coming at home and all three occurring since the 2006-07 season. Most recently the Orange and Blue posted a 68-56 win on Dec. 16, 2016. All three match-ups in the series have been decided by double digits. Head coach Joe Golding constructed a 1-2 mark against the Highlanders while at the helm of the ACU program.

Big West Conference member UCR is 3-2 on the year, aided by winning three of the past four contests. Included in that was a dramatic 66-65 victory at Pac 12 member Arizona State on Nov. 11. Most recently the Highlanders demolished Bethesda, 95-56, on Nov. 20. Five different players are putting up at least 8.0 points per game, led by Flynn Cameron (11.6 ppg), J.P. Moorman II (11.2 ppg) and Zyon Pullin (10.4 ppg). Callum McRae (9.2 ppg) has also been a thorn for the opponents. McRae (7.8 rpg) and Moorman II (7.0 rpg) lead the charge on the glass, helping the Highlanders sport a +7.6 rebounding margin. Pullin also dishes out 5.4 assists per game.

UCR is under the direction of second-year head coach Mike Pagpayo (17-8). It among the league and national leaders for 3-pointers attempted (131-first/23rd) and made (42-first/40th), defensive rebounds per game (31.2-third/26th), rebounds per game (43.6-third/38th), 3-point field-goal defense (26.8-third/62nd) assists per game (16.2-second/66th), rebounding margin (+7.6-third/79th), scoring defense (63.2-third/98th) and field-goal percentage defense (39.3-fourth/99th).

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