Coming off a thrilling buzzer-beating win, UTEP (6-9, 1-3) will take on UAB (10-7, 2-2) on Thursday in Birmingham. Tipoff is set for 6 P.M. MDT in Bartow Arena.
The Miners will be presented with another challenge on the boards as the Blazers hold a +7.1-rebounding margin. UAB also ranks second in C-USA in offensive rebounds per game (12.1).
“You’re talking about an athletic team that rebounds on both ends of the floor,” first-year UTEP head coach Rodney Terry said. “They have some older guys and some good pieces. They look the part and look like, in my mind, a Mountain West team, a high-major team.”
The contest can be heard on KOFX 92.3 FM and tunein.com with “The Voice of the UTEP Miners” Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen on the mic. The Spanish radio broadcast is available on ESPN Deportes 1650 AM with Omar Ropele. The game will also be streamed on CUSA.TV.
Following its matchup versus UAB, UTEP will take on Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro Saturday.
The Miners snapped a three-game losing skid after freshman Jordan Lathon nailed a baseline jumper with no time remaining to clip the Rice Owls, 65-64, on Jan. 12 in the Haskins Center. Ountae Campbell heaved a cross-court pass from the corner with 0.5 seconds remaining. The ball took a bounce, Lathon snagged it and sent his squad to its first league win of the 2018-19 campaign.
Earlier, Lathon had given the Miners a 63-61 lead on a pull-up jumper in front of the basket with 12 seconds remaining. But Trey Murphy III silenced the Haskins Center crowd when he took an offensive rebound and connected on a three pointer from the corner to give the Owls a 64-63 advantage with 1.6 seconds left.
Lathon’s buzzer beater gained national recognition and was no. 2 on ESPN’s SportsCenter top 10 plays.
Fellow star classmate Nigel Hawkins, who was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Week on Jan. 14, scored a career-high 24 points in the win, while pulling down seven rebounds against Rice. The Houston product averaged 17.5 points and 5.0 rebounds during last week’s pair of home contests.
Terry’s other freshman sensation, Efe Odigie, scored only six points, but tallied nine rebounds against the Owls. Odigie, the conference’s leading rebounder, is the lone C-USA player averaging a double-double at 14.5 points per game and 10.0 rebounds per contest.
UAB, after winning its first two C-USA contests in Bartow, is coming off a pair of losses at LA Tech (64-53) and Southern Miss (73-68). Redshirt senior forward Lewis Sullivan led the Blazers with 14 points, while senior guard Jalen Perry and sophomore forward Makhtar Gueye each chipped in with 12 points against the Golden Eagles.
Sophomore guard Zack Bryant leads UAB in scoring (12.4 ppg), while Perry (11.8 ppg) ranks second on the squad. Lewis (10.9 ppg) is third on the squad in points per game, while leading the team with 6.1 rebounds per outing.
“Bryant, being the lone returning starter [from last season], is probably their best player right now,” Terry said. “Bryant is tough to deal with. He’s a 6-2 guard who can score from the outside and shoot the basketball. He can also get into the paint and create for others. But he’s a really good player. Perry is an older shooter and Sullivan is on older inside player. They rely on those three guys to carry them.”
The Blazers rank fourth in scoring defense (66.5 ppg) in C-USA, while opponents are shooting 41.0 percent (also fourth in C-USA).
The Miners fell in Birmingham, Ala., last season, 85-78. UAB holds a slight edge, 10-9, in the all-time series. The Blazers lead the all-time series in Birmingham, 7-2, with all nine games decided by nine points or less.