The UTEP Miners (4-5) will take on the Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions (1-9) in the second game of the Sun Bowl Invitational tonight at the Don Haskins Center. Tipoff is slated for 7:00 pm MT. The first game will be between Central Michigan and Nebraska which takes place tonight at 5:00 pm MT.
This will be 8th meeting between the two schools. UTEP has won all of the previous seven games by an average of 27.3 points. The most recent meeting was last season in the Sun Bowl Invitational consolation game as the Miners walked away victorious 79 to 58 behind a 22 point performance from Cedrick Lang and 18 from Gabriel McCulley.
UTEP is playing their third game this week, with the fourth happening tomorrow night. After possibly one of the craziest games in UTEP and Don Haskins Center history, the Miners were victorious against Oregon winning 91 to 84 in triple overtime. Konner Tucker made a three pointer with 14 seconds left in the game to cement the victory for the Miners. This will be the fifth game in a seven game home stand (including sun bowl tournament games).
Arkansas-Pine Bluff is coming off a 76 to 46 trouncing by Akron on December 18th. Sophomore guard Tevin Hammond (6'0 185 lbs) led the way for the Golden Lions coming off the bench scoring 14 points while pulling down 2 rebounds. Hammond was a statistical monster against Akron also throwing in 3 assists and 4 steals. Senior guard Lazabian Jackson (6'3 190lbs) also pitched in 12 points, 3 rebounds and 5 steals. After starting the game with a 6 to 0 lead over Akron, it went all downhill for the Golden Lions as they never led the rest of the game as Akron turned on their offence.
Coming into this game against UTEP, the Golden Lions have not played at home this season. Arkansas-Pine Bluff is currently on a seven game losing streak. Eight of their ten games have been away from home (0-8) while the other two were on neutral sights (1-1). Pine Bluff has played the likes of # 25 SDSU (now # 18), ASU, Oregon and # 19 Michigan State (now # 20) just to name a few. The Golden Lions have virtually become a punching bag for Division 1 schools losing games by an average of 23 points. Their only victory came at the hands of University of Maryland Eastern Shore by 10 points back on November 12th.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff is currently ranked dead last at 345th in the nation in points per game at 51.7. The Golden Lions are also last in Field Goal Percentage at .347 percent and 343rd in the nation in Assists per game (8.8). The only bright spot for this team would be their rebounding which they are 305th in the nation with 31.5 per game. After the game against the Miners tonight and whoever they play tomorrow, the Golden Lions will be headed into SWAC play which should relax the team just a bit after a pretty tough non-conference schedule. However, the Golden Lions only have 9 home games this season out of 29 total games. Outside of Senior forward Mitchell Anderson (6-7 190lbs), Junior forward DaVon Haynes (6-8 215lbs), Hammond and Jackson, this team has no other threats. This is unusual for the Miners since most teams they faced this season have been well rounded.
The Miners are coming off an exciting 91 to 84 triple overtime victory against Oregon at home on Wednesday night. Sophomore guard/forward Julian Washburn (6'7 205lbs) had his best game of the season for the Miners scoring 23 points and pulling down 6 rebounds. Whenever the moral got down in the DHC, Julian dropped a big shot to keep the Miners in the game. J.Washburn was not alone on this night, Sophomore forward Cedrick Lang (6'9 225lbs) threw in 14 points and 5 rebounds. Once again we saw Junior center John Bohannon (6'10 210lbs) come off the bench and we have to think that this experiment is working well. Bohannon had his best game of the season with 21 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 3 BIG blocks.
The game against Oregon showed the Miners once again what a high caliber opponent looks like. After the performance UTEP showed us on Wednesday, it is safe to say that we could have beat UNLV. If there is one thing that we have learned about the Miners from the games this week, it is that big free throws with almost no time left can mean the difference between a victory and a loss. We also learned that this Miner team is improving their defense after every game and that whole notion of being one of the youngest teams in the nation should not be an excuse anymore.
The Miners know how to score now and the rebounding is only getting better. This Miner team continues to improve and grow up into the tough/talented team we know that they are. UTEP is currently ranked 297th in the nation averaging 60.9 points and 339th with 28.3 rebounds per game. Beating Oregon at home in front of an ecstatic crowd only proved to this team that we are behind them 100% of the way. The fan base gave a standing ovation to the Miners after a tough 2 point loss to UNLV, when in the past the fans would have been gone at the 5 minute mark when the Miners were down 9 just to beat traffic. No, this is a new fan base. These are the TRUE Miner fans and it is thanks to them and to you as well, that this team works hard every day to bring pride to the city of El Paso.
Points- Julian Washburn (13.3), John Bohannon (12.3), Konner Tucker (12.0)
Rebounds- John Bohannon (5.6), Cedrick Lang (4.3), Chris Washburn (4.1)
Assists: Jacques Streeter (4.9), Konner Tucker (2.0), Julian Washburn (1.7)
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions:
Points- DaVon Haynes (12.4), Lazabian Jackson (11.1), Mitchell Anderson (7.9)
Rebounds- DaVon Haynes (6.5), Mitchell Anderson (5.1), Lazabian Jackson (4.5)
Assists- Tevin Hammond (3.2), Lazabian Jackson (2.0), Mitchell Anderson (1.2)
Final thoughts: After playing two games in three days I am sure that the Miners got at least one day off so that they may recharge their batteries. I don't see fatigue playing an issue in this game for UTEP. If the Miners can control Haynes and Jackson from scoring, this game can possibly be over by the 15 minute mark of the second half. Scoring should not be an issue for the Miners nor should rebounds. However, I do feel that in the rebound department it will be pretty close if not tied at the end of the game. This is one of those games where I do not feel worried at all about the Miners losing. If anything, UTEP should treat this Arkansas-Pine Bluff team like their record is flipped and not over look them. I am hoping tonight we get to hear the Amen Chant out of the student section. Last time we heard the chant was the first game of the season (Win over Oral Roberts 69-49).
Prediction: Miners 67, Golden Lions 49