The #25 UTEP Miners outran the Rice Owls 64-78 before a sell-out crowd at the Don Haskins Center. UTEP is now 2-0 since earning their first ranking in a national poll in 18 years. With the win, the Miners clinched a share of their first-ever C-USA Regular Season Championship and extended their school record consecutive conference winning streak to twelve games.
The Jeremy Williams Show:
From Downtown: Jeremy Williams led the Miners with twenty points on electrifying 6/7 shooting from the three point line. Going into the C-USA tourney and post-season, it's refreshing to know that the Miners have a guy like Williams who can step up and shoot from the perimeter when he has to. It was absolutely raining three's last night. UTEP shot 12/25 from downtown; a scorching 48%.
- No Contest: Rice had an early lead, 18-17 with about eleven minutes to play in the first half. An Arnett Moultrie dunk gave UTEP the lead and the Miners never looked back. UTEP was up 34-45 at the half. The Miners extended the lead to 21 with under four minutes to play. As we expected, this one was never really in question.
- Julyan Stone: The Miner point guard has an off night at Southern Miss last week. Against the Owls he dished out eight assists to only two turnovers in twenty five minutes of play. Myron Strong, again, was solid off the bench. He has emerged as a more consistent scorer than Julyan, but still has troubles with turnovers. Strong had 8 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds but also had three turnovers.
On the Seventh Day: Arnett Moultrie and Derrick Caracter didn't score a lot of points, 8 and 9 respectively, but Caracter led all players with 9 rebounds and Arnett chipped in four assists. We were eager to see if Coach Barbee would rest his big men for next weeks tough slate and the upcoming C-USA Tourney. Moultrie played five fewer minutes (24) than his average (29). Caracter played the fewest minutes in any game since the January 16, 2010 game against Southern Miss when he struggled with foul trouble for most of the game.
- Just Another Day at the Office: Randy chipped in 18 points; most of which came off 4/10 shooting from three point range.
- Yield Sign? Yes, the Miners only took 12 free throws last night and hit 8 of them. It's not last night's free throw shooting that is a reason for caution. Over the season, though, UTEP is averaging about 67% from the free throw line. As we enter March, it's clear that right now the biggest weakness the Miners have is at the free throw line. UTEP's best free throw shooter, Culpepper, only shoots 73.6%. UTEP's point guards are among the worst on the team (Stone: 65.4%, Strong 20%). Strong doesn't get to the line often (only 4/13 on the year) but as his minutes keep climbing, we should look to see if he can be a bit more accurate. In a close game, nothing can be more costly than poor clutch foul-line shooting.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Miners will have a short week, traveling to Huntington to take on a surging Marshall squad on Tuesday. John Teicher noted that the Miners left El Paso today. The Rice game was exactly what the Miners needed with a tough road game looming on just a few days rest.
UTEP has won 12 straight conference games. Marshall has won seven straight. The last time one of these teams lost was a month ago. Marshall is coming off a highly emotional win. The Thundering Herd outlasted UCF 115-121 in triple, yes triple overtime last night. Christ Lutz had twenty-five points and Hassan Whiteside had a triple double in the Herd's victory. Marshall is playing really, really well on offense right now. They shot 60% from the field last night.
The Miners have secured a share of their first ever C-USA Regular Season Title. As Tony Barbee told the El Paso Times, the shared title "means nothing to me... "Not a thing. We didn't come into this season for a share. People ask me why we aren't cutting down nets, celebrating. I don't celebrate ties." With a win against Marshall or UAB, the Miners will secure the title outright.