The UTEP Miners will take on the high-scoring FIU Panthers Saturday night, with tipoff set for 7 p.m. at the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners have been one of the better defensive squads in Conference USA, ranking sixth in scoring defense (67.8 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (.413) for league games only, while the Panthers play a fast pace and lead the league in overall scoring (85.1 ppg). Despite allowing over 82 points per game, FIU leads the nation in turnovers forced (20.4), and ranks second in the country in steals per game (10.7) and total steals (245).
“[FIU is] a team that plays up-tempo and you have to really value the basketball,” first-year UTEP head coach Rodney Terry said. “I thought we did a decent job with turnovers [Thursday night]. Our big guys had 10 turnovers between the two of them. You can’t do that. We’re going to have to do a good job at taking care of the basketball. We need to put the ball in the basket though. Like I told the guys during the course of the [Florida Atlantic] game, there’s no magic formula. You have to make plays and be a player. You have to compete on offense and go back to the other end and get a stop.”
Tickets for Saturday’s contest start at $8. UTEP student tickets are free and are available by visiting studenttickets.utep.edu. Discounted tickets for groups of 15 or more are also available. Call (915) 747-5234 for tickets.
Saturday is Hometown Hero Night, while Albertson’s Miners Got Talent is set for halftime. Also, two lucky fans will shoot to win $1,000 courtesy of Elsa Morales’s Allstate Agency. For more information or to register, fans can visit www.utepathletics.com/allstatemoneyball.
Saturday’s contest will also feature the Block Cancer initiative, in which The Mike Slive Foundation partnered with C-USA and UTEP. The Miners will wear blue Block Cancer t-shirts in pregame, while coach Terry will wear a special blue tie. During the game, fans will see signage and videos that focus on increasing awareness for prostate cancer. Fans will also have the opportunity to donate by texting GIVE to (855) 662-2996, or online at mikeslivefoundation.org.
Fans can listen on KOFX 92.3 with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher and Steven 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 ESPN+ with Duke Keith and former UTEP basketball player Leonard Owens calling the action.
The Miners (7-15, 2-9 C-USA) are coming off a 61-48 loss to Florida Atlantic Thursday, while the speedy Panthers (14-10, 5-6 C-USA) were slowed down at UTSA, 100-67.
The young UTEP squad couldn’t find enough offense against the Owls, as star freshman Nigel Hawkins led the team with 12 points (3-for-13 field goals). Hawkins, however, did connect on 4-of-5 from the charity stripe, upping his season free throw percentage to 78.1 (75-96) and 86.0 (43-50) in C-USA action.
Fellow premier freshman Efe Odigie came up three points short of another double-double after grabbing 10 rebounds. Jordan Lathon, Terry’s other notable frosh, scored eight points and snagged four rebounds. Lathon led the Miners with a pair of blocked shots, tying his career best.
FIU was led by senior guard Brian Beard Jr. (14 points) and redshirt junior forward Devon Andrews (14 points) against the Roadrunners, while junior forward Osasumwen Osaghae paced the squad with nine rebounds on Thursday night. Beard Jr. leads FIU in points per game (17.8), while ranking eighth in the league. Andrews averages 14.4 points per game, while Willy Nunez Jr. and Trejon Jacob each collect 11.0 points per outing. Osaghae ranks third in C-USA, averaging 8.4 rebounds per game.