LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 14: Head coach Tim Floyd of the UTEP Miners talks to his players on the bench during their game against the UNLV Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center December 14, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV won 65-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Christmas is nearly here, and some great football and basketball games are on the way. The bowl season kicked off over the weekend, and holiday basketball tournaments are about set to tip. With that said, here's what's going on around Miner Nation, Conference USA, and throughout the rest of the country.
AROUND MINER NATION
The Lady Miners improved to 10-0 on Saturday after dropping the Loyola Marymount Lions 68-48 in Los Angeles. UTEP sprinted out to an early 15-2 lead, and they never looked back. Loyola was able to cut the deficit to 4 on multiple occasions, but they could never get any closer than that.
UTEP shot 48% from the field, and a season's best 53.8% from three point land. Sophomore G Kelli Willingham led the the way for the Miners with 18 points, and Gloria Brown chipped in with 11. Up next will be a home game with UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday. The Miners will then take a week off before hitting the road to take on Arizona St. next Wednesday.
There's no denying the importance of senior leadership, and that's exactly what Gabe McCulley has brought to the table. In the four games since McCulley's return, he has averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block. More importantly, the team has been much more competitive, and it all came together Saturday night in an 87-57 thumping of Southern University.
Perhaps most importantly, was the great shooting for the Miners. They shot 50% from the field, 94% from the line, and 52.2% from three point land against the Jaguars. Gabe McCulley and Julian Washburn both had career highs with 19 points a piece. Mike Perez also chipped in with 18 points, and Jalen Raglend and John Bohannon both finished with 8 points. Up next for the Miners is a home matchup with McNese St. tonight at 7:05 in the Don.
The Miners, who improved to 3-5 on the season after the win over Southern, will try to start their first winning streak of the season against McNese. This team just continues to get better on a daily basis, and one would have to assume that will continue. Go Miners!
For the second straight week, Julian Washburn has been named the Conference USA freshman of the week. Julian had a 12 point night Wednesday at UNLV, but followed that up with 7 of 11 performance for 19 points on Saturday. For the week, Washburn averaged 15.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. Congratulations to Julian.
The UTEP basketball team took a big hit over the weekend, as junior transfer Malcolm Moore tore the ACL in his right knee. The 6'7 F had already been making a big impact for the Miners, and was seeing plenty of action in a very thin unit. Moore will likely be out for the season. We wish him a speedy recovery.
The Miner frontcourt suffered another blow with the news that 6'10 freshman F/C Hooper Vint would also be out indefinitely. Vint has a bulging disk in his back, and it is not yet known whether he will undergo surgery, or just use therapy to try to get better.
The Miners did get an addition to the team on Saturday night as sophomore F Kevin Perry made an appearance. The TE in football played for the basketball team last year, but had his knee scoped after football season and hadn't yet made it onto the basketball court. His presence, at the least, should help our depth.
PER MINER ILLUSTRATED
EL PASO, Texas – It appears the Miner football coaching staff is still hitting the recruiting trail hard leading up to the Christmas holiday as UTEP landed another verbal commit in the form of Prentiss Johnson.
The athlete out of San Antonio, TX (Thomas Jefferson HS) confirmed via email with MI that he contacted the football offices to commit to the school. Johnson is listed as a 5-11, 165 LB, 4.59 40 WR/CB and is generally considered to be in the “athlete” category because of his ability to play on both sides of the ball.
Miners Lose Offensive Line Coach
Miner offensive line coach Bob Connely has accepted the job to be the new offensive line coach at Arizona St. University. According to Miner Illustrated, former Miner and current Midwestern State assistant Brian Natkin will fill the position.
AROUND CONFERENCE USA
As previously mentioned, bowl season has already kicked off, and soon it will be Conference USA's turn to step into the action. The Marshall Thundering Herd will square off against the Florida International Panthers tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. ET in the Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl. That game will be carried on ESPN.
Also in action this week will be the Conference USA champions, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. As we all know, the Golden Eagles opted for the Hawaii Bowl, where they will take on the Nevada Wolfpack out of the WAC. This matchup features an 11-2 team vs. a 7-5 team so, expectations are squarely in USM's favor. That game will take place Christmas Eve at 8:00 p.m. ET, and will also be carried on ESPN.
"A foundation that endows athletic scholarships at the University of Houston may have lost more than 40 percent of its listed assets because of investments in an alleged Ponzi scheme orchestrated by a financial adviser for college basketball coaches who committed suicide last summer.
The losses incurred by the Houston Athletics Foundation could have financial implications for the university, which has traditionally struggled to raise funds for its sports programs. The investments have also raised ethical issues for the group's board, many of whom had long-standing ties to the scheme's mastermind, David Salinas.
More than $2.2 million of the nearly $5.1 million in assets listed by the foundation in its most recent filing with the Internal Revenue Service were invested in bonds that the Securities and Exchange Commission claims never existed. The foundation's losses are among the most notable in a scheme that allegedly defrauded more than 100 investors of $39 million, including millions of dollars from several high-profile college coaches."
Even though Conference USA has experienced some success early on in the non-conference schedule, the only ones being shown any love at all by the rest of the nation are the Memphis Tigers. The Tigers, who are now 5-4 on the season after losing a tough one to #4 Louisville, received 7 votes in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, but did not receive any votes in the AP poll. Memphis started the season as the #8 team in the nation.
Conference USA Basketball Power Rankings Will be Released Tomorrow
I know that we've been fairly consistent in putting out the Conference USA power rankings every Monday, but considering the amount of big games tonight, it'll be pushed back until tomorrow. In action tonight will be McNese St. at UTEP, #21 Creighton at Tulsa, Coastal Carolina at ECU, Lipscomb at Memphis, Belmont at Marshall, SMU at SE Missouri St., Temple at Rice, and Southern Miss at Arizona St.
AROUND THE NATION
In the first game since the suspensions of a handful of Xavier players for their participation in a fight near the end of the Cincinnati game, the Musketeers were rolled 64-42 by Oral Roberts. Xavier, which was without star Tu Holloway and others, was down 17 at the half, was never closer than 16 in the second half, and was down 30 at one point. Tu Holloway, whose suspension was only one game, will be back in action in the next Xavier contest. The others will still be out multiple games.
Former Penn St. football coach Joe Paterno was released from the hospital, and was at home resting Monday, after being treated for a pelvic injury incurred during a fall at Paterno's house. It was also recently found that Paterno has a form of lung cancer, and is being treated for that as well. The investigation and legal process into the Penn St. scandal are still ongoing.