EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The UTEP men’s basketball team will begin Conference USA play at FIU on Thursday, January 2 at Ocean Bank Convocation Center in Miami, Florida.
The Miners and Panthers each scratched out 9-4 nonconference marks. FIU recently had a six-game winning streak snapped at Minnesota, falling 89-62, on December 28. The Panthers have started the season 5-0 at home.
Following the departure of guard Jordan Lathon (transfer), UTEP still feels like they have enough to compete for a conference championship.
“We have a really deep team,” said junior forward Anthony Tarke. “It sucks that some of our guys had to go, but we understand this is the most important time to come together.”
Beginning conference play 1-0 is key in the Miners’ quest to win a regular season Conference USA championship.
“Our guys are really excited about it,” said UTEP head coach Rodney Terry. “We’ve already been on the road and have played at some difficult places this year. FIU is off to a great start and we know it’s going to be a high possession game and we have to value taking care of the basketball. We have to do a good job at finishing and we have to do a good job defensively. Our guys are excited and they like playing on the road. It’s a confident group that has gained valuable experience already.”
UTEP is coming off its trip across the Pacific as it competed in the Diamond Head Classic. The Miners opened the holiday tournament with a 67-63 loss to host Hawaii, rebounded to edge Ball State, 71-70, (UTEP’s first win away from the Don Haskins Center in over a year) while coming up short against Boise State, 72-67, on Christmas Day. However, the Miners have not won a true road game since March of 2018.
Against FIU, the UTEP has dominated the all-time series. The Miners are 11-1 against the Panthers after their 85-78 win in El Paso last season. UTEP will look to extend its undefeated record (6-0) against FIU in Miami on Thursday, while the Miners are 9-1 versus the Panthers since FIU joined Conference USA. UTEP last played in Miami on February 25, 2017, as it came out on top 90-76.
Bryson Williams leads the Miners and ranks second in Conference USA in points per game (19.3). Williams averaged 18.3 points per game in Hawaii, as one of his performances was a 33-point putout against the Rainbow Warriors. Williams was the first Miner to register multiple 30-point games during a single season since Randy Culpepper did so during the 2010-11 season.
The Miners’ second-leading scorer is Souley Boum (11.3 ppg), while Daryl Edwards (9.8 ppg) ranks third.
FIU is led by one of the premier big men in the nation, Osasumwen Osaghae. The 6-9, 250-pound forward leads the nation in blocked shots (60) and blocked shots per game (4.6). The senior paces the squad in rebounds per game (8.3), while ranking second in points per game (13.3). Osaghae’s 72.5 field-goal percentage (66-91) also ranks second in the nation and first in the conference. Devon Andrews paces the Panthers at 16.5 points per game.
Tip-off is at 10 a.m. MT and the game will be streamed on ESPN+.