Coming off a victory over Charlotte, UTEP will play a two-game road set at Marshall (Thursday, 5:30 p.m. MT) and WKU (Saturday, 5 p.m. MT) this week.
“It’s going to be a very challenging road trip for us,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “At one point going in to last week, Marshall was 5-0 and those guys’ guard play is extremely good. They have four to five different guys on that team who won an NCAA Tournament game a year ago. You can’t put a price tag on that experience those guys got a year ago.”
The matchup between the Miners (7-12, 2-6 Conference USA) and Thundering Herd (12-9, 5-3 C-USA) will be televised on beIN Sports and can be heard on KOFX 92.3 with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen. The Spanish broadcast can be heard on ESPN Deportes 1650AM with Omar Ropele.
The Miners held an opponent under 60 points for the sixth time this season with a 57-53 victory over Charlotte on Saturday night in the Haskins Center. It also marked the second consecutive game in which the UTEP defense held an opponent under 54 points and forced under 39 percent shooting from the field.
Overall, UTEP has held opponents under 40 percent shooting in seven contests this season. ODU scored 50 points on Thursday, while shooting 30.8 percent – the second lowest percentage allowed by the Miners this season.
The 49ers shot 38.5 percent from the field, while going 6-of-25 from three-point range.
Sophomore Evan Gilyard nailed a pair of game-clinching free throws with four seconds remaining during UTEP’s four-point win Saturday night. Gilyard led the Miners with 13 points and dished out two assists. Another of UTEP’s veteran players, Paul Thomas made his way back into the starting lineup after coming off the bench the previous two contests. The senior answered with an all-around performance, scoring 11 points and grabbing seven rebounds with a blocked shot and two steals.
Two of UTEP’s sensational freshmen had solid outings against the 49ers. Nigel Hawkins scored 12 points, led the Miners with eight rebounds and tied for the team lead with three assists. Jordan Lathon also dished out a trio of dimes, while chipping in with eight points, four rebounds and a blocked shot.
The UTEP defense will have its hands full on Thursday as Marshall ranks second in C-USA in points per game (79.2).
The Thundering Herd, which is last in C-USA in scoring defense (82.0 ppg), has lost three consecutive games after a 101-51 setback at Southern Miss on Saturday. Marshall fell at LA Tech, 89-80, on Jan. 24 and at WKU, 68-59, last Monday. Marshall began the new year with a 5-0 league mark.
The Thundering Herd is 8-1 at home this season, including a 3-0 mark in league play. Jon Elmore has been one of C-USA’s premier players, averaging 19.0 points per game. The 6-3 senior guard ranks fourth in the league in scoring, while fellow senior guard C.J. Burks (17.9 ppg) ranks sixth.
Marshall leads C-USA with 199-made three pointers, while its 9.0 threes per game also ranks first.
“Marshall shoots the ball extremely well at home. They’re better at home than they are on the road. They’re 40 percent from three at home,” Terry said. “We know going in, we’re going to have to do a great job with high ends and close outs, and take away some air space from guys we know can make shots. We just really need to defend well. They’re a talented offensive team, so we need to go out there and guard, and get our defense set.”
Marshall is second to last in C-USA in rebounding (32.5 rpg), while 6-9 sophomore forward Jannson Williams (4.5 rpg) paces the squad in that department.