EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP (11-8, 4-4 Conference USA) men’s basketball will face its biggest test of the season when they take on No. 24 Florida Atlantic (18-1, 8-0 Conference USA) at the Don Haskins Center on Saturday, Jan. 21.
This will be the first time since 2014 that UTEP will welcome in a ranked opponent to the Don Haskins Center. UTEP hosted No. 3 Arizona on Dec. 19, 2014, at the Don Haskins Center. The Wildcats went onto grab a 60-55 win over the Miners.
UTEP comes into this game against FAU with some momentum. The Miners have won two straight-for the first time since mid December- and three of the past four to get back to .500 in league action after getting out of the gates at 1-3 in C-USA. Most recently, UTEP cruised past FIU, 81-61, on Jan. 19.
Immediately after the win against Florida International, UTEP had their sights set on the challenge of playing one of the best teams in the nation.
“You hear a lot around town about scheduling and bringing in opponents. Well, here we go,” Golding said. “Saturday night, 7:00 p.m., We got a chance to pack this place, to get this thing rowdy, to bring this thing back to life. We have a hell of an opportunity, right? So our players need our fans. I need our fans, we need them.”
“Just treat it like every other game. You can’t just look just because they’re ranked,” UTEP guard Shamar Givance said. “We’re just going to stay focused and just know that it’s a big game. We know we can take care of it. It is in the hands of anybody.”
Florida Atlantic earned the No. 24 spot in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll on Monday. It was the program’s first Top 25 rankling in school history. FAU comes into Saturday’s game in top form. The Owls currently have the second-longest winning streak this year in the nation at 17 games. Last time out they drilled UTSA, 83-64, on the road on Jan. 19.
The Owls have the top scoring bench in the nation as they are scoring 37.8 points per game. The Owls’ 9.9 made 3-pointers per game is the 16th most in the country. FAU’s scoring offense is ranked 49th in the NCAA as they put up 78.0 points per game. FAU has also thrived in scoring defense, as they hold their opponents to 63.6 points per game. That is third best in Conference-USA and 40th in the NCAA.
2022 All C-USA honoree Alijah Martin paces the Owls in scoring (12.8 ppg-11th C-USA) and steals (1.3 spg-17th C-USA), with Johnell Davis (12.3 ppg-15th C-USA) and Vladislav Goldin (10.1 ppg) also in double figures for scoring. Martin is a sharpshooter with 1.9 triples per game (11th C-USA). Michael Forrest (9.8 ppg) and Nick Boyd (9.4 ppg) have also been effective scorers. Goldin is the top rebounder (6.2 rpg-ninth C-USA), but Martin (5.2 rpg-15th C-USA) and Davis (5.1 rpg-17th C-USA) have also been extremely effective on the glass as well. FAU moves the ball effectively with four different players contributing at least 2.0 assists per game, including co-team leaders Bryan Greenlee and Jalen Gaffney at 2.4 apg.
The Miners will be in search of their first win against a Top-25 opponent since beating No. 25 UAB on the road in double overtime, 74-65, on Jan. 30, 2010. It has been 22 years since the Miners took down a ranked foe at the Don Haskins Center. They knocked off No. 20 Fresno State, 80-61, on Feb. 17, 2001.
UTEP is 10-2 at home while FAU is 7-1 on the road, including a victory at SEC member Florida.
UTEP and No. 24 Florida Atlantic will face off on Saturday, Jan. 21. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time at the Don Haskins Center. Tickets are available by visiting www.UTEPMiners.com/Tickets or by calling (915) 747-UTEP.