UTEP travels to Charlotte with C-USA Tournament fate on the line


UTEP will look to keep its Conference USA Tournament hopes alive at Charlotte as C-USA Bonus Play continues Sunday afternoon. The Miners (8-18, 3-12 C-USA) and 49ers (6-20, 3-12 C-USA) are set to tip off at 11 a.m. MT/1 ET in Halton Arena.


UTEP faces a must-win situation in each of its remaining three C-USA regular season games to put itself in position to qualify for the league tournament.  The Miners will host Middle Tennessee on March 6 (Senior Night) and will conclude the regular season in Murfreesboro against the Blue Raiders on March 9. The Miners and 49ers are three games behind Rice (6-9 C-USA) and Middle Tennessee (6-9) with three contests remaining. 


Fans can listen to Sunday’s game on KOFX 92.3 with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher. The Spanish broadcast can be heard on ESPN Deportes 1650 AM with Omar Ropele. The contest will also be streamed on CUSA.TV.


UTEP defeated Charlotte, 57-53, on Jan. 26 in the Haskins Center. Senior guard Jon Davis, C-USA’s second-leading scorer, led the 49ers with 23 points that night.


“Ron [Sanchez] has done a great job with his group and a lot like our guys, he plays a lot of freshmen,” first-year UTEP head coach Rodney Terry said. “He’s got one standout in Jon Davis, who’s one of the better guards in our league. When Jon Davis goes off and has a 30-point night, he’ll give anyone in our league a difficult time to win a ball game. We’re not going to stop Davis and shut him out. We have to do a great job at containing him as a team. They have gotten better and they’re a really good defensive team. We’ll have to shoot well and take care of the basketball.”


Davis was held to four points on 2-of-7 shooting (0-4 three pointers) in the first half but finished the Jan. 26 contest shooting 8-for-20 (2-10 threes) from the field and 5-of-7 from the foul line. Jordan Lathon made a big defensive stop late, blocking Davis’s last-second shot attempt. Afterwards, Evan Gilyard drew a foul and connected on a pair of free throws with three seconds remaining to seal the four-point victory.


Most recently Lathon produced his best performance of the season to earn his second C-USA Freshman of the Week honor on Feb. 25. The Grandview, Mo., product set a UTEP freshman record by pouring in a career-high 32 points on 12-of-16 shooting against Rice on Feb. 23 in the Haskins Center. Lathon also established career bests in made field goals and three-point buckets (six). The 6-4 guard stepped up in the absence of C-USA’s leading rebounder Efe Odigie, pulling down a career-most 18 boards versus the Owls.


Despite Lathon’s effort, Rice rallied from 20 points down to get by the Miners, 85-81 in double overtime. Lathon got off to a blazing start, sinking his first seven field goal attempts, including going 4-for-4 from beyond the arc. Senior Paul Thomas scored 13 points, including the three-point shot that sent the contest into a second overtime, and recorded nine rebounds. Nigel Hawkins and Gilyard each scored 16 points, while going a combined 14-of-16 from the foul line.


Charlotte has lost eight of its last nine games. The 49ers recently fell at Middle Tennessee, 86-67, on Feb. 23. Davis paced his squad with 23 points on 7-of-17 shooting (6-13 on threes). The 49ers shot 47.1 percent from the field, while going 9-for-27 from three-point range. Overall on the season, Charlotte ranks last in C-USA in scoring (60.0 ppg) and scoring margin (-8.7). The 49ers shoot free throws well, ranking third in the conference in percentage (73.4).

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