Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational Preview

MinerRush.com

Alcorn State meets Denver at 5 PM then Western Illinois faces UTEP at 7PM in the first night of the 52nd Annual West Star Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational.

In a time of college basketball where the traditional holiday tournaments are being replaced by mega money games, and tournaments before the holiday, the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational still stands.

Entering the 52nd year of the tournament Coach Haskins loved, familiar face Alcorn State will join Summit League contenders Western Illinois, and Denver, and of course the boys in Orange and Blue.

Different format this year, in that the schedule is set for both days, separating the conference foes.

If the winners from Saturday night meet up Sunday, some hardware will be given out to the victor on Sunday in a de-facto championship game.

We take a look at each team and the schedule of the two day hoop fest, share your favorite memories of the grand daddy of them all.

Western Illinois Leathernecks

Current Record: 5-7, 0-0, Summit League

Head Coach: Jim Molinari

Key Players

Adam Link, Sr, F, 12.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg

Garrett Covington, Fr, G, 11.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg

Tate Stensgaard, So, F, 8.2 ppg, 4.1 ppg,

Team Stats

Points Per Game 60.5
Opponents Points Per Game 56.6
FG% .448
Opponents FG% .396
3-Point FG% .294
Opponents 3-point FG% .301
Free Throw % .585
Rebounds Per Game 33.5
Rebound Margin +1.4
Assist Per Game 13.4
Turnovers Per Game 12.6

Western Illinois is one of the better defensive teams UTEP will face all year. They come in ranked 6th in scoring defense nationally, and Senior Adam Link is one of the best players in their conference. Teams are shooting just under 40 percent on the year against them, a true test to the continued growth of the Miners efficient offense over the past three wins. They won 22 games a year ago, but graduated key players from their CBI appearance. This will be the first game between UTEP and Western Illinois.

UTEP Miners

Current Record: 8-5, 0-0 C-USA

Key Players:

McKenzie Moore, Jr, G, 13.1 ppg,

Julian Washburn, Jr, F, 11.4 ppg,

Vince Hunter, Fr, F, 10.4 ppg

Points Per Game 71.1
Opponents Points Per Game 66.2
FG% .466
Opponents FG% .377
3-Point FG% .365
Opponents 3-point FG% .296
Free Throw % .680
Rebounds Per Game 36.4
Rebound Margin -0.3
Assist Per Game 14.1
Turnovers Per Gam 11.5

UTEP enters as the hottest team in the tournament as they have won 4 out of their last 5. Defensively the Miners have found their identity, they rate 15th in nation in field goal percentage defense, and 19th nationally in free throws made. While he has got the jumper going the past game, C.J. Cooper has played a huge role defensively, along with guards McKenzie Moore and Justin Crosgile. Julian Washburn has been on fire for UTEP, and the continued development of Vince Hunter has took this team to another level in the past two games.

Alcorn St. Braves

Current Record: 3-7, 0-0, SWAC

Head Coach: Luther Riley

Key Players:

LeAntwan Luckett, So, F, 14.2 ppg

Octavius Brown, Jr, F, 10.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg

Team Stats

Points Per Game 64.6
Opponents Points Per Game 72.7
FG% .384
Opponents FG% .432
3-Point FG% .301
Opponents 3-point FG% .349
Free Throw % .648
Rebounds Per Game 32.9
Rebound Margin -5.5
Assist Per Game 9.4
Turnovers Per Game 12.4

The Braves have not played on their home floor since November 18th, and have not won a game since then as well. The road warriors enter the Haskins Center losers of their last six, including the likes of Houston and Mercer. Luckett is an athletic forward who is very talented, though shooting .384 percent from the field as team, and struggling to score 70 points a night has hurt them thus far.

Denver Pioneers

Current Record: 5-6, 0-0 Summit League

Key Players:

Brett Olson, Jr, G, 15.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg

Chris Udofia, Sr, F, 13.o ppg, 5.7 rpg

Cam Griffin, Jr, G, 8.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 19 steals

Points Per Game 65.7
Opponents Points Per Game 67.6
FG% .432
Opponents FG% .497
3-Point FG% .358
Opponents 3-point FG% .379
Free Throw % .711
Rebounds Per Game 27.1
Rebound Margin -5.8
Assist Per Game 15.3
Turnovers Per Game 10.3

The Princeton offense returns to the tournament, this time via the Denver Pioneers. Denver picked apart Colorado State and hung 80 points on the bigger Rams after a tough start to the season. Denver opened with back-to-back games against Cal and Stanford, both losses, along with neutral court losses to Harvard and Pepperdine started them with an 0-4 record. The Colorado State game sparked a three game winning streak that was snapped by UC-Irvine 63-50 in their last outing. All signs point to UTEP and Denver meeting up for some hardware Sunday, as both teams are playing good basketball at this point of the season.

Miner Rush Pre-Tournament All-Tourney Team

McKenzie Moore, UTEP

Adam Link, Western Illinois

Brett Olson, Denver

Julian Washburn, UTEP

LeAntwan Luckett, Alcorn State

Game Schedule

Saturday

Alcorn State vs. Denver, 5 PM MDT

Western Illinois vs. UTEP, 7 PM MDT

Sunday

Western Illinois vs. Alcorn State, 5 PM MDT

Denver vs. UTEP, 7 PM MDT

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