This will be third overall meeting between the two schools. UTEP leads the all time series 2-0. Last time both teams squared off was 1975. The Miners played both games at Memorial Gym.
UTEP comes into the game on a ten day break, while Idaho is fresh off a 81-79 overtime victory last night vs. Eastern Washington. UTEP is 2-0 at home this season and looks to extend that to 3-0 while on the second game of a six game home stand.
Despite the score against Eastern Washington last night, the Vandals out rebounded the Eagles 51 to 29. Senior center Kyle Barone finished the game with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks. This was only the second double-double this season for Kyle Barone but he has scored double digit points in every game this season. Junior forward Stephen Madison finished the night with 29 points and 10 rebounds.
The Vandals average 67.4 points and 36.4 rebounds per game while allowing opponents 70 points a game. Idaho knows how to stay in a game, but it is their constant turnovers and fouls that let their opponents stick around. Their only true tests this season was against New Mexico and Washington which were both losses for the Vandals.
Idaho comes into this match up vs. the Miners with three players averaging more than ten points a game. Stephen Madison averages 17.7 points, Kyle Barone averages 15.9 points a game and Sophomore guard Connor Hill averages 10.6 points off the bench for the Vandals.
In the rebound department, the duo of Kyle Barone (8.4) and Stephen Madison (5.6) lead the way. This duo has been reason why Idaho has been in games despite the close scores. They combine for 49.8 percent of all points and 41.3 percent of all rebounds for the Vandals this season.
The Miners are coming off a 55-54 win on November 28th vs. NMSU. Sophomore forward Julian Washburn finished that game with 20 points and 2 rebounds, while Junior center John Bohannon finished with 15 points and 5 rebounds.
The Miners continue to struggle with their offense and on the boards as well. UTEP only averages 55.5 points and 25 rebounds a game. The Miners allow 64.2 points a game. Without a true shooter on the team, this continues to be a problem for the Miners when games get close.
After the NMSU game, Julian Washburn (11.3) joined John Bohannon (11.0) as the only other player to average double digit points per game this season. Senior guard Jacques Streeter and Freshman forward Chris Washburn are the next in line for the Miners averaging 7.7 points a game each.
While scoring continues to be an issue, rebounding is another part of the Miners game that is lacking in production. John Bohannon (4.7) and Sophomore forward Cedrick Lang (4.5) lead the team in rebounds this season, while the Washburn brothers are close behind each averaging about 3 a game.
If the Miners are to win this game vs. the Vandals, they must find a way to produce offense on almost every possession possible. Second chance points will mean a lot to the Miners as those don't come often. The Miners will need a big game from not only John Bohannon but Cedrick Lang as well.
Even though Idaho does not have a well rounded starting five, look for Kyle Barone and Stephen Madison to be a big factor in the game early. Connor Hill and Senior guard Mansa Habeeb will come off the bench and provide some fire power.
Final thoughts: For the Miners to come out with a victory vs. a very scrappy Idaho team they must rebound and find some simple points. Also getting to the free throw lane will be a must and will probably be the big source of points for the Miners like it was vs. NMSU. No line has been put for this match up in Vegas. We can assume the line will be very close since the Miners don't score much but the Vandals do allow a lot of points. This mach up can honestly go either way.
Prediction: Miners 68, Vandals 61