USA TODAY Sports
The UTEP Miners will take on the Oregon Ducks at the Don Haskins Center with tip-off at 6:00 pm MT.
This will be only the 2nd meeting between the two schools. Oregon was victorious last season at the Matthew Knight Arena defeating the Miners 64 to 59. This will be the second Pac-12 school that the Miners play this season, the first being Arizona which the Miners lost.
UTEP is playing their second game in only three days. After a tough fought battle against UNLV, the Miners cut the lead to only 2 with 4 seconds remaining. The pass was inbounded to Graduate Senior guard Konner Tucker who pump faked his defender to get his three point shot off and barely missed. UTEP is 3-1 at home this season and is trying to rebound from that tough loss. This will be the fourth game in a seven game home stand (including sun bowl tournament games).
Oregon is coming off a 60 to 38 win over Nebraska at home. Nebraska was only down 9 points at the half but Oregon opened up in the second half moving the ball around very well and getting easy baskets. The Ducks have a familiar face to the Miners in Senior forward Arsalan Kazemi. Arsalan was the former forward for Rice University until he transferred earlier this season for personal reasons.
In the game against Nebraska, the Ducks saw three players in double figures. Senior center Tony Woods lead the way for Oregon scoring 14 points and pulling down 4 rebounds. Senior forward E.J. Singler also pitched in 13 points and 4 boards. Kazemi recorded his second double-double of the season for the Ducks by scoring 10 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. The rest of the scoring for the Ducks was well rounded which can be a problem with the Miners if they only single out Oregon's big men.
The Ducks schedule is eerily similar to UNLV. Six of Oregon's ten games have been against lower D1 schools and a couple of D2 schools. Oregon's only loss came at the hands of then ranked 22nd Cincinnati (now 11th). Oregon defeated UNLV at home 83 to 79 on November 23rd. Coming into this game, the Ducks are ranked 41st overall in the nation with 77.5 points a game while also averaging 39.5 rebounds (47th in nation) and 13.7 assists (130th in nation).
The Miners are coming off a 62-60 loss on Monday against UNLV. The Miners came out roaring in that game with a 5-0 lead only 41 seconds into the game. The Miners then went cold and did not score again for almost 3 minutes. This game saw several bright spots such as the emergence of Konner Tucker who has sit out the past seven games since fracturing his wrist during the South Eastern Oklahoma exhibition. Tucker came off the bench and provided some fire power that the Miners have lacked. Apart from Tucker's 12 points, the only other Miner in double figures was Sophomore Julian Washburn who had 13. All of the Miners who suited out and played scored with the exception of McKenzie Moore. I feel this was just getting the nerves out for Moore and I expect him to be producing in no time.
The game against UNLV showed the Miners what a high caliber opponent looks like. In order for UTEP to start winning games against the big schools, they need to emulate exactly how they played on Monday night against UNLV minus the cold shooting. If there is any bright spot to look at after that game, it would be the Miners improving defense. UTEP played solid defense and limited star freshman Anthony Bennett to only 10 points and 3 rebounds which is way lower than his season averages. It seems that while playing UTEP, other schools seem to play way below their averages and standards which in turn helps the Miners out. UNLV was scoring 80 plus points in most of their games and were held to only 62 on Monday. Turn that around and have the Miners start scoring in the 70s and we could possibly see a lot more wins down the road.
The Miners are slowly but surely starting to fix their scoring and rebounding woes. UTEP is currently ranked 331st in the nation averaging 57.1 points and 344th with 26.4 rebounds per game. Thanks to Tucker's fire power the Miners almost had a victory over the 20th ranked team in the nation. While it was not the best thing to happen, losing to a team of that caliber should boost the Miner's confidence since they know they can hang with the big boys. In order to start raising our scoring and rebound problem we must first drive in and get to the bucket. If we miss we must learn how to grab offensive boards and get those second chance points. If John Bohannon and Cedrick Lang can do so without getting into foul trouble, the future can be bright for the Miners come CUSA play.
Points- Julian Washburn (12.1), Konner Tucker (12.0), John Bohannon (11.3)
Rebounds- John Bohannon (5.0), Cedrick Lang (4.3), Chris Washburn (4.0)
Assists: Jacques Streeter (4.5), Konner Tucker (2.0), Julian Washburn (1.6)
Points- Damyean Dotson (11.0), E.J. Singler (10.7), Tony Woods (10.6)
Rebounds- Arsalan Kazemi (10.3), E.J. Singler (4.7), Carlos Emory (4.5)
Final thoughts: After playing that tough game against UNLV, I can only hope that the Miners still have some gas in the tank for Oregon. In order for UTEP to win we must have excellent defense and not allow the easy points like we did against UNLV. We all know that those easy points will come back to haunt us. Similar to UNLV, the Ducks have shot more free throws (167) than their opponents have attempted (164), so keeping them from the line is a must. We need to keep Kazemi from getting his 10 rebounds a game and while he is not the biggest scoring threat, every other player on that Oregon team can be. Keep in mind Oregon has scored under 70 points three times this season (2-1). The Ducks only won those games by 22 both times (Jacksonville St. and Nebraska) and while both schools have winning records, Oregon caught those schools on an off day. Nebraska usually puts up 60 points (only 38 vs. Oregon) and Jacksonville State puts up 63 (only 45 vs. Oregon). UTEP must make Oregon play below their averages. It is simple if Oregon scores more than 70 points and out rebounds us I don't see a victory for the Miners, however, if UTEP can keep Oregon under 70 points and beat or tie in the rebound department I think we have a shot. Oregon is 4.5 point favorites in Vegas.
Prediction: Oregon 67, Miners 61