The Houston Cougars (9-5, 1-0) head into El Paso to take on the UTEP Miners (7-8, 0-1) in the Miners' Conference USA home opener at 7:05 p.m. in the Don Haskins Center. UTEP leads the overall series 12-8, including a 9-1 mark in El Paso. The two teams last met on February 19th, 2011 at the Don, a game in which Randy Culpepper put up 33 points en route to a 76-64 victory.
The Cougars enter the contest at 9-5 overall, and 1-0 in conference play. They are coming off a 70-69 overtime victory over Tulsa at Hofheinz Pavilion on Wednesday. Houston is led by junior F Jonathan Simmons who is averaging nearly 16 points and 5 rebounds a game. Sophomore F Alandise Harris is also a big contributor averaging 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a contest, while freshmen Joseph Young and TaShawn Thomas also average better than 10 points a game.
The Miners enter the contest at 7-8 overall, and 0-1 in conference action. Wednesday the Miners took on the Marshall Thundering Herd on the road, and played tough for a half before falling 76-60. Sophomore G Michael Perez is the top scorer for UTEP averaging 11.7 points on the season, with senior F Gabriel McCulley not far behind at 11.3 points a contest. Freshmen G/F Julian Washburn and F/C Cedrick Lang have also played big roles for the Miners, as has sophomore C John Bohannon.
The size, athleticism, depth, and overall talent of Marshall posed great problems for UTEP on Wednesday. And while Houston is much improved compared to early on in the season they just don't have the same qualities that the Thundering Herd possessed. Regardless of what the schools look like on paper, or even what sport it is at that, UTEP vs. Houston has turned into quite the rivalry and the two schools usually play each other very tough. I'd expect more of that tonight, but I also expect a win for the Orange and Blue. Go Miners!!