The UTEP Miners (10-11, 3-4) will take on the Rice Owls (12-10, 3-4) tonight at 6 p.m. MT at Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston, TX. The game will be the Miners second in Houston over the last 5 days. UTEP leads the overall series with Rice 14-9, and have taken 10 of the last 12 meetings.
The two teams last met on February 5, 2011 at Tudor Fieldhouse, and Julyan Stone had a career night with 23 points leading the Miners to a 59-53 victory. While the Miners lead the overall series, Rice leads in games played in Houston, taking 6 of 10. The Miners however are 2-0 at Tudor Fieldhouse (formerly Autry Court). Also UTEP coach Tim Floyd carries a 6-3 all time mark against Rice coach Ben Braun.
The Owls come into the contest at 12-10 overall (9-10 vs. D1 opp.), and 3-4 in Conference USA action. They are fresh off an 88-74 home win over Tulane on the 28th, but they had dropped their 3 previous matches. In their last 10 games, the Owls are 4-6 with their wins coming over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, SMU, and Tulane twice.
Junior F Arsalan Kazemi leads the way for the Owls, averaging 13.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per contest. Junior G Tamir Jackson is also a force for Rice, putting up 11.4 points per game, and senior G Connor Frizzelle is having a decent year as well, going for 9.7 points and 1.7 assists per game.
The Miners come into the game at 10-11 overall, and 3-4 in Conference USA play. They are fresh off a heartbreaking overtime loss at the hands of the Houston Cougars on the 28th. In that game, the Miners held the lead nearly the entire way, and by 15 at one point, before allowing Houston to make their way back, force overtime, and steal the win.
UTEP is led by sophomore G Michael Perez who is averaging 12.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. Senior F Gabriel McCulley, the Miners' glue guy, is currently averaging 11.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.2 steals a game. Freshman G/F Julian Washburn is also having a fine year, averaging 10.8 points and 3.2 rebounds a game.
Sophomore C John Bohannon didn't have a great start to the year, but is coming on very strong as of late, averaging 10.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists on the season, including a 17 and 10 average over the last four contests. Also of note, freshman F Cedrick Lang, who has played well all year, is currently suffering from a stress fracture in his foot. He is playing, but one would have to think the injury takes a toll in some way or another. Lang is averaging 7.3 points, and 4.8 rebounds a game.
The Miners are in for a tough test tonight, perhaps the toughest of their three game road swing. Arsalan Kazemi is solid player in this league, and our team has had issues defending athletic big men. Guys like Gabe McCulley and Cedrick Lang will need to stay out of foul trouble, and others like Perez and Washburn will need to work to get open and make some plays for us.
It should be a close game, and one the Miners can definitely win. But, there have been plenty of those this season, and so far on the road the Miners have yet to win even one. Will tonight be the night? We'll have to wait and see. Go Miners!!