EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP men’s basketball (14-17, 4-16 Conference USA) is ready to see if they can make some noise in the postseason. The ninth-seeded Miners will play No. 8 seed Western Kentucky (16-15, 8-12 Conference USA) in the first round of the Conference USA Championships at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas on Wednesday.

UTEP is 3-4 in the first round of C-USA tournaments, including 1-0 under head coach Joe Golding. Last season, the Miners knocked off Old Dominion, 74-64, in the opening round before bowing out to Middle Tennessee in OT, 66-59, in the quarterfinals. 

UTEP will enter the Conference USA Championships with some momentum. On Saturday, the Miners grabbed a, 77-65, win over fourth-place Middle Tennessee. Offensively, UTEP has been on a roll the last two games. UTEP has shot above 45% from the floor against Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. The Miners also have shot 50% or better from three-point land in the last two contests, knocking down a combined 18 three-pointers.

“We’ve been shooting the ball well and shooting free throws well,” UTEP senior guard Shamar Givance said. “Our offense has been improving drastically over the season, so I feel like we are going in with a great head of steam.”

UTEP will face off with Western Kentucky for a third time this season and a second time in less than a week. UTEP suffered a 73-68 loss to Western Kentucky last Thursday at the Don Haskins Center.

“Both games have been really, really close and it’s a quick turnaround from last week, so it won’t be a lot of prep work,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “Obviously, there’s some different things that we have to do, fine tune, and get better at because they’ve beaten us twice.”

“We got a great feel for them,” Givance said. “We know that they play a lot of zone defense so we have to work on our zone offense and learn how to execute against them.”

Western Kentucky is coming off one of its worst performances of the 2022-23 season. The Hilltoppers suffered a 34-point loss to North Texas on Saturday. The Hilltoppers will look to rebound from that loss in their first-round game of the C-USA Tournament against UTEP.

WKU has dominated UTEP in the all-time series. The Hilltoppers lead the series, 8-1, and have won the last six straight contests against UTEP.  UTEP’s lone win in the series came in OT in front of a capacity crowd as part of the 50-year celebration of the Miners winning the 1966 NCAA Championship vs. Kentucky, 72-65 back in 2016.

UTEP is hoping that their efforts combined with the magic of March Madness will lead them to a victory over WKU on Wednesday.

“That’s March, man. Every team has an equal opportunity,” Golding said. “The ball is going to get tipped. There is 40 minutes to play. There’s going to be a winner or loser, and if you win, you get to survive and advance. If you lose your season comes to an end.”

UTEP and Western Kentucky will go toe-to-toe on Wednesday, Mar. 8 at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas. Tipoff is at 4:30 p.m. MT/5:30 p.m. CST. The game will stream on ESPN+. Jon Teicher (42nd year) and Steve Yellen (20th year) will be on the call on “The Home of UTEP Basketball” 600 ESPN El Paso. 

The victor will advance to face top seed and 2023 C-USA regular-season champion Florida Atlantic at 4:30 p.m. MT/5:30 p.m. CT Thursday.