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Following UAB Loss, UTEP Hosts Two C-USA Squads for Final Week

The final week of the C-USA basketball regular season is upon us as the UTEP men’s basketball team looks to turn the page from their loss to UAB (69-66).

This week, the Miners get set to host a pair of in-state league foes in Rice (Thursday, 7 pm) and North Texas (Saturday, 1 pm).

Coverage for both games can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso with Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen. MinerTalk will follow the broadcast of both games. If you missed MinerTalk from Saturday, here it is:

Look back: Miners fall in a heartbreaker to UAB, 69-66

In the first half, the Miners threw all the jabs they could. UTEP led for a steady 16 minutes in the first period, shooting 46% from the floor and 36% from 3-point range. However, it was the Miners’ defense that propelled them in the first half. They created 11 turnovers in the first half, including nine turnovers in the span of seven minutes. The Miners led 34-27 going into the half.

Out of the gate, UTEP appeared a bit sluggish to start the second half. UAB jumped out on a 20-9 run to retake the lead, sparked by an early 9-0 run. They led by as much as eight points (58-50) with under eight minutes to go in the game. The Miners charged back and tied the game, 58-58. Through the final stretch, UAB was able to pull away on a 4-0 run to close the game while Alfred Hollins missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer on the final possession.

Souley Boum led all scorers with 26 points on a sharp 8-of-12 shooting (6-of-10 free throws), while UAB’s Jordan Walker also totaled 22 points and seven assists. The Blazers out-rebounded UTEP 42-25 and scored 13 second chance points. In all, there were 11 lead changes and nine ties in the game.

“We didn’t handle the late game situation and that’s on me,” said first-year head coach Joe Golding. “I was proud of our guys’ fight. I was proud of the effort.”

Early look: Rice and North Texas

This week is especially important for the Miners in terms of seeding. Here’s the latest C-USA standings:

Based on this, the Miners are currently floating between a fourth and fifth seed for the C-USA Tournament. Since they lost to both UAB and Middle Tennessee, there is no way they will get a No. 3 seed. If the Miners beat Rice and/or North Texas, they will almost certainly lock in the fourth seed. If they somehow lose both games this week, they could drop down to the sixth overall seed.

UTEP checks in this week at No. 179 by KenPom. They are a top-50 team across the NCAA in turnover percentage (21.2%, 45th), non steal turnovers (10.5%, 45th) and opponent 3-point field goal attempts (32.5%, 32nd).

Needless to say, their game on Thursday against Rice is a must-win.

Rice (15-13, 7-9 C-USA) has lost four of its last five games. They are coming off an overtime win against Southern Miss (77-72). Despite their record, this is still a tough team to beat. They are led by guards Travis Evee, Chris Mullins and Quincy Olivari, while forward Max Fiedler always gives UTEP fits. The Owls are ranked No. 217 by KenPom.

North Texas (22-4, 15-1 C-USA) is virtually perfect in conference play besides an early January loss to UAB (69-63). Since then, they are on a 14-game win streak, and could be 15 by the time they play the Miners on Saturday. They are ranked No. 41 by KenPom and they are currently the favorites to win the league. Combo guard/forward Thomas Bell has been their best player all season, averaging 12.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

What the team said

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