Miners vs Golden Hurricane coverage
The Miners are in Tulsa today to play the Hurricanes. The game will be shown on CBS College Sports Network, starting at 2 PM MST. The Miners are 10-1 and sit at the top of the standings of Conference USA, having won their last nine games. The 'Canes are 8-4 and struggling to stay in the hunt for the championship.
The teams met on February 6th, and the Miners sent the Hurricanes back to Tulsa with a 73-59 defeat. The game was a much tougher battle than the score would indicate. The bookmakers have this game as a pick 'em to a 1.5 point Tulsa favorite.
Here are some keys to this game. The last time they played, Jerome Jordan scored 20 points, 5 points above his average. But, the Miners' Derrick Caracter forced him to play his game from outside the paint. Jordan showed a nice shot from ten feet. By making him play outside of the paint, he was held to just 5 rebounds, and Caracter, and Arnette Moultrie dominated the boards, Caracter grabbing 12, and Moultrie another 11. Forcing Jordan out of the paint also limited his foul shots. He added 6 points to his total by hitting 6 of 10 free throws. What may have been the most critical factor of the game came from this physical battle in the paint, when Jordan picked up three quick fouls to begin the second half, which sent him to the bench.
Also, Ben Uzoh who averages 15.8 ppg, and Justin Hurtt who averages 13.7 ppg, were held to 7 points each. It wasn't just that they were having an off day. The Miners defense was largely responsible for this by recognizing that Bishop Wheatley, Joe Richard, and Bryson Pope weren't going to do much damage, so they threw defenders at Uzoh and Hurtt in waves.
This defensive strategy, and the Miners' depth eventually wore the Tulsa team down, and with Jordan on the bench, the Miners began to pull away. With 5 minutes gone in the second half Tulsa led 37-36. With ten minutes left, the Miners were up 49-42. With 5 minutes left the Miners lead had been stretched to 61-49.
The Miners will look to use the same strategy today. A potentially huge factor will be the officiating. In El Paso, the refs let the big men play, and the play was physical. They called the game fairly, and Jordan's quick fouls to start the second half were earned. If the refs call every little ticky-tack touch in the paint, it could be the UTEP big men who spend time on the bench with foul troubles. Look for the Miners to try and shut down Uzoh and Hurtt using the same smothering defense as before. But, don't hold your breath thinking they will be held to only 7 points each.
There is a reason the odds makers have this as a pick 'em, or have the Miners as the 1 to 1.5 point underdogs. These two teams go about playing and winning ball games in different ways, but they both do what they do, well. Let's hope the officials let the players decide what should be a very close, hard fought, game. May the better team win. That should be the Miners.