EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP men’s basketball (8-6, 1-2 Conference USA) will face off with Louisiana Tech (9-6, 2-2 Conference USA) at Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, Louisiana on Saturday.
This will be the second meeting between the two programs this season. UTEP took a 60-55 win over Louisiana Tech on Dec. 17 at the Don Haskins Center. The Miners know that the Bulldogs will be looking for some revenge on their home court on Saturday.
“We got them here, so they’re going to want to get us there. The whole key in conference play is to protect the home court,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “LA Tech will be ready. There’s no question. There’s always adjustments made on the second go round. You never know where those adjustments are going to come from, but you have to prepare yourself for them.”
UTEP is currently on a three-game losing streak. The Miners suffered losses against Kent State (Dec. 21); UAB (Dec. 29.), and Rice (Dec. 31). UTEP hopes to snap the streak and get back into the win column for the first time since their win against North Carolina A&T in the first day of the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Dec. 21.
UTEP is aiming to make some adjustments in order to finish off close games. UTEP has lost their last three games by a total of 12 points.
UTEP is scoring 70.3 points per game and allowing opponents to score 67.2 points per game so far this season. Tae Hardy is UTEP’s leading scorer right now as he is averaging 12.8 points per game along with 3.2 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. Mario McKinney Jr. has been solid when coming off the bench. McKinney Jr. is averaging 10.2 points per game and 3.9 rebounds per game. Shamar Givance continues to produce as the starting point guard. Givance is scoring 9.8 points per game along with 3.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.
Defensively, UTEP continues to be one of the best teams in the country on that side of the floor. The team is ranked 132nd out of 352 NCAA Division I teams in the country in total defense (67.2 PPG) and 66th in field goal percentage defense (40.3%). The Miners are also ranked 13th in the country in turnovers forced per game (18.0). They are also ranked 31st in the country in steals per game (9.1).
“We held Kent State to 47 points. UAB, one of the best scoring teams in the country, at the end of regulation the game was right where it needed to be, and then with Rice, we held them to 62 points at the end of regulation,” Golding said. “Defensively, we’ve done a good job of guarding the three-point line, rebounding the basketball well, keeping teams out of transition so I am happy where we are with that.”
Louisiana Tech comes into this game off of an 88-82 OT win at Rice on Thursday. The Bulldogs are one of the top scoring teams in the nation. They rank 60th out of 352 NCAA Division I teams in scoring offense as they put up 78.4 points per game. Louisiana Tech has three players that are in double-digits when it comes to scoring averages. Cobe Williams is putting up 18.0 points per game along with 4.1 assists per game. Isaiah Crawford (13.0 PPG) and Keaston Willis (12.3 PPG) are the other two Bulldogs that average double-digit scoring figures.
The three-point shot is one the Bulldogs like to take. They average 26.2 three-point shot attempts per game and knock down 9.3 threes per game. Guarding the three-point line is going to be a big key for a UTEP victory on Saturday.
“They [Louisiana Tech] is a really good three-point shooting team. We have to guard the three-point line,” Golding said. “We have to rebound the basketball, keep them out of transition, and value the basketball will be a big key to keeping them out of transition and guarding the three-point line.”
UTEP has held their last five opponents to shooting under 40% from deep. UTEP and Louisiana Tech will face off at Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, Louisiana on Saturday, Jan. 7. Tipoff is at 1:00 p.m. MT. The game will be streamed on Conference USA TV.