Things might not be going like many had hoped for the Miner men's basketball team, but you can't say the same for the ladies. The Lady Miners are absolutely rolling right now, off to a 17-2 start, including 6-0 in conference play. They have beat 4 of their 6 conference opponents by double digit margins, and just throttled Houston yesterday 87-43. The only question that's left is...who's got next? Here's all the news from around Miner Nation, Conference USA, and the rest of the country as well.
AROUND MINER NATION
The Lady Miners were in action yesterday in the Don, unfortunately for the visiting Houston Cougars, they were firing on all cylinders. UTEP jumped out to an early lead, and took a 41-21 advantage into the locker rooms. They just continued to pour it on in the second stanza, racing away to an 87-43 victory.
The Miners racked up 25 assists on 33 made field goals, they outrebounded Houston 53-37, they finished with a season low 9 turnovers, and all 13 Miners who saw the floor tallied at least 4 points. Kayla Thornton led the way for the Miners going for 18 points, on only 8-12 shooting, and also pulled down 8 rebounds. Amazingly enough, Thornton was the only Miner to score in double figures.
Baiba Eglite chipped in with 9 points, Kristine Vitola put up a solid 8 points and 8 rebounds, and Erika Warren and Syerra Davis finished with 7 points a piece. Jenzel Nash finished with 6 points, 4 Miners finished with 5 points each, and 3 others chipped in with four. C-USA's leading scorer, Roxana Button, led the way for the Cougars with with 20 points, but she finished 5 of 19 from the field.
The Lady Miners put up an absolutely stellar performance on Sunday, and they also set a couple of records along the way. The 44 point margin of victory is the Miners' largest ever in a conference game, and they also tied the mark for most 20+ point wins in a season with 8. Congrats to the Lady Miners, and good luck with the rest of the season. Next up for the Miners, a road trip to Hattiesburg to take on Southern Miss this Thursday.
Also, the Miners have finally received some much deserved credit, grabbing a single vote in the AP Top 25 poll. The ESPN/USA Today poll is still yet to be released.
Last week, the UTEP men's basketball team got above .500 for the first time this season after dropping SMU and ECU in consecutive home games. And, while many hoped they had finally cleared that hurdle, the road woes continued sending the Miners right back to .500. The Miners got off to a good start Saturday in New Orleans, jumping out to an early 1st half lead before heading to the locker rooms tied at 28.
The second half started much the way the first did, as a Michael Perez three, and a couple free throws after that, put UTEP ahead by 6. But the youth of the team once again shined bright, and about a ten minute stretch of stagnant offense, and poor defense allowed Tulane to open up a six point advantage of their own, and the Miners were just unable to overcome it, losing by a final of 66-61.
Mike Perez led the way for the Miners with 14 points, while Julian Washburn and John Bohannon finished with 13 points a piece. Jacques Streeter and Cedrick Lang also chipped in with 7 points each. Tulane was paced by freshman Ricky Tarrant, who finished with a game high 22 points. Tre Drye was the Wave's only other double figure scorer going for 13 points.
It was a tough one to swallow. The Miners were better than Tulane for about 30 minutes of that contest. Unfortunately, it takes a full 40 to win a game, especially on the road in conference. It's poor stretches like that one on Saturday that a young team has to get over. We're just not there yet. Up next for the Miners is another road game this Saturday at Houston. That game is an absolute must win.
Jake Larson, a 6'4 210 lb QB from Coppell, TX verbally committed to play football for the Miners yesterday. Larson was a considered a high major prospect entering his senior season, but the buzz eventually faded as the QB tore both his MCL and ACL in his right knee. There were many questions as to whether or not he'd be able to play competitive football again, but everyone got their answer yesterday in the form of that verbal commitment.
"Before the season, I had a lot of interest from SEC and Pac-12 schools...In terms of going to a big school, [the injury] hurt me, but I went to the UTEP camp over the summer and connected with [head] Coach [Mike] Price there. That never really went away."
"They offered me about a month and a half ago, and we were finally able to get out and visit this week. I talked about it with my family, and I decided to commit."
Garett Hope, a 6'3 225 lb LB from The Woodlands, TX has committed to play football for the West Virginia Mountaineers. Hope was offered by the Miners, along with Northwestern, New Mexico, Nevada, Wake Forest, and Wyoming, but chose WVU after the Mountaineers offered just this weekend. It would've been a nice add for the Miners, but they'll just have to keep looking.
AROUND CONFERENCE USA
ESPN's resident bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, is currently projecting Conference USA to get 4 bids to the NCAA tournament. Pretty amazing considering both Memphis and Marshall lost this week. We're still a long way from March, but it's great to see our conference getting the buzz it deserves. Lunardi's most recent projections were released this morning.
Also, while no teams are receiving votes in the latest AP Poll, both UCF and Southern Miss are receiving votes in the latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
Todd O'Brien, a UAB center for the men's basketball team, received news this week that he would not be eligible to play basketball this year after his appeal for eligibility was denied. O'Brien was formerly on the basketball team at St. Joe's, but moved on to UAB to pursue graduate studies after getting his undergraduate degree from St. Joe's.
Normally, the NCAA allows a player to become immediately eligible to play at a new school under these circumstances, however, the initial university must still grant the player a release. That is something St. Joe's has refused to do.
O'Brien transferred to UAB to pursue a public administration degree, one that is not offered at St. Joe's. For now, he will have to sit out this season, but he is still in discussions with his lawyer on whether or not he can pursue legal action.
AROUND THE NATION
In what was undoubtedly the biggest story of the weekend, legendary Penn St. football coach Joe Paterno lost his battle with lung cancer yesterday. As we all know, Paterno lost his job amid a huge scandal surrounding the Penn St. football program. The coach had been diagnosed with the lung cancer back in November, and had been receiving treatment for it. Unfortunately, his health took a turn for the worst on Saturday, and Paterno eventually passed on Sunday morning.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
I really want to turn the Conference USA power rankings into more of an interactive theme. Thus, Monday's I'll put out a dig, with a poll, and will ask you all what you think about certain teams. This week, we'll start off by finding out who you think the #1 team in conference is. The four possibilities are Southern Miss, UCF, Memphis, and Marshall. Now, USM and UCF won both games last week, while Memphis and Marshall went 1-1 (losing to UCF and Southern Miss). But, all four teams are 1-1 against each other. Southern Miss beat Marshall, Marshall beat UCF, UCF beat Memphis, and Memphis beat Southern Miss. So, you tell me, who is the top team in Conference USA?