The UTEP Miners (11-7, 4-1 CUSA) will take on the UAB Blazers (8-12, 0-5 CUSA) in their fourth CUSA road game tonight at the Bartow Arena. This is the second and final game of the Miners current CUSA road trip. The Miners will play at home on February 2nd against the Tulane Green Wave.
This will be 14th meeting all time vs. the Blazers. UAB leads the series 7 to 6; however, the Blazers have won the last two games after UTEP won the previous three. The Blazers have the Miners number when it comes to playing in Birmingham. UAB is 4-1 all time against the Miners at home, with all five games being decided by 9 points or less. The last meeting took place on February 4th, 2012 when the Miners lost a heart breaker by a final of 61-60. This game saw many lead changes as well as John Bohannon scoring his previous career high of 22 points. The only other Miner in double figures for scoring was Julian Washburn who had 16.
UAB's last game took place on January 26th when the Blazers fell to the Houston Cougars by a final of 66-61. Senior guard Terence Jones (6'2 185 lbs) scored 14 point for UAB while grabbing 3 boards and dishing out 2 assists. The bright point from this loss was the play off the bench by Junior forward Jordan Swing. Jordan had 20 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 7 assists in 32 minutes of play. Junior forward Rod Rucker (6'5 220 lbs) and Junior center Fahro Alihodzic (6'10 240 lbs) both had 8 points respectively for the Blazers.
UAB has had a pretty decent schedule up to late. They have a mix of easy "winnable" games mixed with some challenges. While there are no big wins that really stand out when you look at it, the one thing that we should notice is the Blazer's ability to score. Another thing to pay attention to would be the trend in their CUSA games. While they are all losses, the margins by which the lose get slimmer and slimmer each game. UAB lost to UCF and Memphis by 16, USM by 15, ECU by 6 and Houston by 5. While most would over look this, it seems to be that the Blazers are finally showing up to the conference party and the Miners should be aware of that.
UAB is currently ranked 65th in the nation in points per game at 72.8. The Blazers are ranked 69th in rebounds per game at 37.7 and 12th in the nation in assists at 16.5 per game. ECU shoots 42.5 percent from the field which ranks them 205th in the nation.
The Miners are coming off a thrilling last second win by a final of 68-67 over the ECU Pirates. The Miners trailed for most of the game until Sophomore guard McKenzie Moore (6'6 190 lbs) hit a jumper with 19 seconds left on the clock to tie the ball game up at 65. The Pirates Miguel Paul then went through with a drawn up play to get to the bucket easily with 4.4 seconds left in the game. McKenzie Moore then brought the ball in with a pass to Senior guard Jacques Streeter (6'0 175 lbs). Jacques got the ball across the half court line and passed it to a trailing Moore who hit the 25 foot 3 pointer in double converge as time expired to get the win for the Miners. The play was then uploaded to YouTube and made its way to ESPN's Top 10 plays of the night where it was ranked number 2. This game also saw an ejection of ECU's Shamarr Bowden after he clearly 1-2 punched Senior guard Konner Tucker (6'4 185 lbs) as he was on the floor in front of the ref. Both these plays have been wide spread since then end of the game, as seen on website such as Yahoo.com and Worldstarhiphop.com.
With all that said Junior center John Bohannon (6'10 210 lbs) came off the bench and had the best game of his Miner career after much speculation from the fans that he is a lost cause. Bohannon scored 23 points to go along with 9 rebounds (5 offensive) 2 blocks, 1 assist and 1 steal. McKenzie Moore was once again a stat sheet monster. Moore has 17 points as well as 8 rebounds (4 offensive), 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block. Sophomore guard/forward Julian Washburn (6'7 205 lbs) found his rhythm again dropping 12 points with 6 rebounds.
The Miners came out flat once again against ECU and got lucky. I will not sit here and say the Moore's shot didn't take skill to make but we cannot count on road buzzer beaters night after night. UTEP needs to start this game with a big run. They need to score fast and often and not look back, because these last two CUSA road games have been nothing shy of pathetic.
The Miners are currently ranked 266th in the nation in scoring at 63.4 points per game. UTEP ranks 300th in the nation in rebounding (31.7) and 184th in assists (12.6) per game. The Miners are currently ranked 117th in the nation in field goal percentage at 44.5 percent per game.
Points- Julian Washburn (12.2), Konner Tucker (11.6), John Bohannon (11.1)
Rebounds- John Bohannon (6.3), McKenzie Moore (5.1), Cedrick Lang (4.6)
Assists: Jacques Streeter (4.7), Julian Washburn (1.8), Konner Tucker (1.5)
Points- Rod Rucker (13.8), Jordan Swing (13.6), Terence Jones (10.7)
Rebounds- Rod Rucker (8.4), Jordan Swing (6.0), Robert Williams (5.9)
Assists- Terence Jones (4.1), Jordan Swing (2.9), Quincy Taylor (2.4)
Final thoughts: I love the hype around El Paso right now surrounding the Miners. It's great to see the support that this city clearly has for this team. I am hoping to see an almost sold out crowd for the game on February 2nd vs. Tulane. With that said, the Miners need to shake off that win and get their head focused on the task tonight. As I stated before, in order for the Miners to win this game they need to score early and score often. Get those scrappy offensive rebounds, make shots and get to the line. If the Miners can shoot at least 46 % from the field and make their free throws (70 % or better), I don't see why the Miners can't get their third CUSA road win of the season. If I was Tim Floyd, I would stick with the starting rotation that he has used the past 3 games (Lang, McK Moore, Streeter, Tucker, J.Washburn) and used Bohannon as a spark off the bench.
Prediction: Miners 66, Blazers 59