Hardaway 2-steps back to UTEP for Miners’ home finale


Paul Thomas will play his last game in the Haskins Center as UTEP will host Middle Tennessee on “Senior Night” with tipoff set for 7 p.m. Wednesday night.


Thomas will be honored prior to the contest, while UTEP legend Tim Hardaway will return to the Sun City and sign autographs following the game. Hardaway’s visit was made possible due to the generosity of GECU, a proud sponsor of the University of Texas at El Paso and UTEP Athletics.


The Miners (8-19, 3-13 Conference USA) and Blue Raiders (9-20, 6-10 C-USA) will meet for a second time this season. UTEP will conclude the 2018-19 campaign at MT on Saturday.


“It’s going to be a physical game,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “[Middle Tennessee] has some athletes who really try to pose their will on you on the glass. Physically, they’re a tough matchup to deal with [Reggie] Scurry inside and [James] Hawthorne plays with a really good motor. [Karl] Gamble has some length [6-foot-9]. Their wing players are guys who can drive the ball and rebound the basketball as well. When you put two shooters around those [inside] guys with [Donovan] Sims and [Antonio] Green – they’re shooting the basketball really well right now. They’re also playing their best basketball going into Bonus Play.”


All seats in the Gold, Silver, Bronze and Copper sections are half-price for Wednesday’s C-USA Bonus Play game.  Gold prices are $14 (regularly $28), Silver are $12 (regularly $24), Bronze are $10 (regularly $20) and Copper are $8 (regularly $16).  Upper reserved prices remain $8.  Tickets are on sale at the UTEP Ticket Center (2901 North Mesa), or by calling (915) 747-5234.  Tickets are also available at the UTEP Eastside Ticket Center location (1452 N. Zaragoza Suite A-500) or at ticketmaster.com.  In addition, UTEP men’s basketball season ticket holders can receive one (1) free ticket by presenting their season ticket at the UTEP Ticket Center Mesa Street location.  Student tickets are free by visiting studenttickets.utep.edu. 


Fans can present their March 6th game ticket at the Airway & Edgemere Chick-Fil-A Thursday (March 7th) for a free sandwich.  Plus, two lucky fans will shoot to win a trip to the Final Four at the game.


Fans can listen on KOFX 92.3 with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen. The Spanish broadcast can be heard on ESPN Deportes 1650 AM with Omar Ropele and Abel Rodriguez. The contest will also be streamed on CUSA.TV.


The Miners are coming off a loss at Charlotte on Sunday. Freshman Jordan Lathon assembled another solid outing, leading all scorers with 25 points and grabbing six rebounds. UTEP led by as many as nine points during the first half and seven points in the second. But with the score tied 48-48 and 8:42 left, the 49ers went on a 16-0 run and won by 10 points (68-58). Lathon has averaged 28.5 points per game over his last two starts.


UTEP star freshman and C-USA’s leading rebounder Efe Odigie missed his second consecutive contest with an injury. Odigie’s loss has hurt the Miners as he’s the only league player averaging a double-double (12.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg).


“He’s probably not going to be with us the rest of the season the way it looks right now,” Terry said. “But he’s had a great freshman campaign for us. He’ll have a chance to build upon going forward and gained valuable experience this year. He had a chance to develop on the floor at meaningful times and he’ll be better for it come spring and summer.”


Odigie will be the first Miner to average a double-double during a single season since Terry White (10.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg) did so during the 1981-82 season.


Middle Tennessee, despite losing at Rice, 67-61 on Sunday, advanced to the C-USA Championships in Frisco, Texas.


Thomas, a Houston product, has played in 112 games and has made 86 starts during his career with the Orange and Blue. He’s scored 771 points on 311-of-650 shooting from the field (47.8 percent), while connecting on over 32 percent of his three-point field goals. Thomas has also tallied 559 rebounds, 144 assists, 39 blocks and 47 steals during his four-year career.


Thomas’ highlights include his game-winning jumper with 2.6 seconds remaining at Charlotte during his junior campaign. He snagged a career-high 17 rebounds against Norfolk State this season. Thomas also had the honor of donning UTEP great Jeep Jackson’s #22 jersey during his sophomore season.


“Paul’s been a great ambassador not only on the court, but off the court,” Terry said. “He’s got one class this semester and will leave with a degree. He’s just done a good job at representing this program on-and-off the court. He’s bought into the new culture and new identity. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s a great kid and will have a great future moving forward. I’m glad I got to work with him.”


Hardaway played at UTEP from 1985-89 and ranks no. 1 in school history in steals (262), no. 2 in assists (563) and no. 5 in points (1,586). The Chicago product led the Miners to a 101-30 record, while advancing to four NCAA Tournaments. Hardaway was named the 1989 Naismith Best Little Man Award winner and the WAC Player of the Year. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, most notably with the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat, and was a five-time NBA All-Star. 

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