UTEP men's basketball team will search for answers following the stunning loss at the buzzer to FAU, answers for a crowded first place race.
While UTEP was busy fighting back from a 20-point deficit on Thursday, FIU had five players score in double figures, beating UTSA 80-72. Dennis Mavin lead all scorers with 16 points, Rakeem Buckles adding in 12 points, and 10 boards for his 20th double-double on the season.
Coach Tim Floyd:
"The issue is, we have to move on against a team that defeated the team that beat us Thursday night. I think Mike Jarvis might agree that this is a team more physically gifted than his. Their big guy (Buckles) is a transfer from Louisville, last year's national champions. He can really play. I've had a couple of coaches tell me that Murphy, a 6-5 perimeter player, might be the best driver in the United States from perimeter to hole. So we will have our hands full. We have to move on from Thursday night but it has to be addressed, it has to be addressed. There is a chance for carryover and we have to get back to who we are."
The duo of Buckles, and Tymell Murphy has been solid for FIU all year long. Murphy blocked 8 shots in a game earlier this year, FIU set a school record for swats against UAB with 11, twice this year they have posted double digit block numbers.
He also has been a top scorer in the C-USA, averaging 16.3 points per game, and dropping a career high 29 against Marshall on January 30th. Buckles is second on the squad, adding 12.2 points, and Raymond Taylor is a very solid guard who contributes 12.2 points per game, and 6.2 dimes.
This one will test the depth of the Miners who only used seven players on Thursday. Jerome Fink is a 6'6 forward who can be a physical force, FIU also has a streak of 170 straight games with a 3-pointer.
Defensive improvement is a must for a Miner win. While FAU was hitting some lucky daggers throughout the game, the Miners also several lapses on the defensive end for the first time in a while.
Through all the drama Thursday night, UTEP has still won 13 out of their last 15, and its just the second loss since the defections of the three stooges.
I will not buy into the fatigue factor for the Miners either. I did notice hands on the hips while down 20, though these are 19-22 year olds, and storming back from the deficit shows me there are plenty left in those legs to last at least another month.
Floyd noted how good of physical shape his team is in a couple of weeks ago, crunch time is upon us with conference race now turning into a four headed monster.
Keitha Adams and Co. will be looking to make it seven straight as they pay a visit to Norfolk, facing Old Dominion Saturday night.
The Miners are 20-8 in their last 28 roadies, 4-2 this season.
Sparkle Taylor has been a nice emergance over the past couple of games. coming off a 15 point effort against FIU in the Miners last outing.
Shae Kelly leads the Monarchs with a 16.8 points per game average, and also averages a double-double with 10.3 rebounds a game.
Match up of the night across the C-USA has to be Kelly vs Kayla Thornton.
For the first time in a while, a team will match UTEP's size. ODU has three players 6'0 or over in their starting lineup, though depth is the Miners advantage.
Another 20-win season is on the line tonight, if the Miners win out, an automatic bid to ladies Big Dance is very likely. The Miners sit in a three way for first place, a game behind Middle Tennessee, and will be in the midst of two game road swing that will take them to Denton next Wednesday.
UTEP Miners (19-4, 8-2) at Old Dominion Monarchs (11-13, 4-5)
5:00 PM MT Norfolk, VA
Radio: 1150 AM El Paso
Fla. International Golden Panthers (13-12, 5-5) at UTEP Miners (18-7, 8-2)
7:05 PM El Paso, TX
Radio: The Fox 9.23 FM El Paso, live stream via UTEP Athletics