The UTEP Miners (10-10, 3-3) and the Houston Cougars (10-9, 2-4) meet up tonight at Hofheinz Pavilion in Houston for a Conference USA showdown. Tipoff is slated for 6:00 p.m. MT. The Miners lead the all time series 13-8, but they are only 2-5 at Hofheinz. Also, the Miners have still yet to win a true road game this season.
These two teams last met on January 7th in the Don Haskins Center. That night Gabriel McCulley put up a career high 22 points, and the Miners raced past the Cougars for a 70-50 victory. The Miners also won both contests with Houston last year, giving coach Tim Floyd a 3-0 record versus the Cougars.
Houston enters the game at 10-9 overall, and 2-4 in Conference USA play. They were off Wednesday, and were last in action on the 21st, an 82-76 home victory over ECU. The Cougars started out the season 4-5, then reeled off 5 wins in a row to get to 9-5 before meeting up with the Miners in El Paso. That loss to UTEP sparked a 4 game losing streak that was just snapped by that win over ECU.
The Cougars are led by junior F Jonathan Simmons. The 6'6 wing is averaging 14.4 points, and 4.6 rebounds per game. Sophomore F Alandise Harris is also having a big year in Houston, averaging 13.8 points, and 5.9 rebounds a game. Also noteworthy are freshman F TaShawn Thomas who is averaging 10.4 points and 7.6 rebounds, and freshman G Joseph Young who averages 10.3 points, an 3.9 rebounds a contest.
The Miners come into the game at 10-10 overall, and 3-3 in conference play. They had just won two in a row to get above .500 for the first time this season before falling at Tulane 66-58 last Saturday. The Miners, like the Cougars were also off on Wednesday.
UTEP is led by senior sophomore G Michael Perez. Perez is averaging 12.1 points and 2.4 rebounds a game. Senior F Gabe McCulley is the glue man for this team, doing a little of everything. McCulley averages 11.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.2 steals per contest. Also of note, freshman G/F Julian Washburn averages 10.5 points and 2.9 rebounds, and sophomore C John Bohannon is going 10.1 points, and 6.8 rebounds a game.
Freshman F Cedrick Lang was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot this week, and was subsequently held out of practices. It is still not known whether or not he will be able to play through his injury. Lang's playing status will be a game time decision.
The Miners have an opportunity tonight to get back above .500, both overall and in conference. They are facing an opponent that they dominated 3 weeks ago, and that has been beat by 11 or more points in four of their last five contests. This a prime opportunity for the young Miners to get over that road hump, and gain a little confidence heading into Wednesday's contest at Rice. I expect a close one tonight, but I also expect a Miner win. We'll see what happens. Go Miners!!