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UT San Antonio @ UTEP Game Preview

UTSA Roadrunners (0-0) @ UTEP Miners (0-0)
Friday November 11th - Don Haskins Center

The UTSA Roadrunners, and the UTEP Miners square off in the 2011-12 season openers for both squads Friday night in the Don. UTEP leads the all time series with UTSA 4-0, including 3-0 in El Paso. The Miners also have an overall mark of 29-2 against Southland Conference opponents, including a 24-1 record here in El Paso. The two schools last faced each other in the 1998-99 season, and the Miners prevailed 78-61.

UTSA returns 4 of their top 5 scorers from last season, only missing leading scorer Devin Gibson (17 ppg, 5.4 apg). The Roadrunners participated in the NCAA tournament last season as representatives of the Southland Conference. They knocked off Alabama St (70-61) in the First Four, before falling to top seeded Ohio St. (75-46). Overall UTSA finished the 2010-11 season with a 20-14 mark.
Needless to say, this game will be much different from the last time the Miners faced UTSA. In the 98-99 season, the Miners were working with players by the names of Sharif Fajardo and Brandon Wolfram. This time around, the Miners are working with ten new faces, including 8 freshman, and only 2 healthy players from last year's 25 win team.
Last week the Miners played two exhibitions. They lost to Eastern New Mexico 75-64, and then dropped Sul Roll St. 76-60. There was great improvement from the first game to the second, but still a long, long way to go. However, if the Miners can make that same amount of improvement from the second exhibition to the season opener, they may have a good shot at winning.

There's no doubt that returning players John Bohannon and Mike Perez will have to play huge roles for this team. For at least the first month of the season and possibly more, they will be the only players in the Orange and Blue that played division 1 basketball last season. Bohannon greatly improved his game from the start of the season to finish, but Perez, who was a scorer in high school, rarely showed much, and took a complete backseat to the stars of last year's team. That will certainly have to change, as he himself will have to transform into one of the leaders of this team.

The Miners bring some great talent to the table, but even greater youth. Perhaps the two best new talents of the 2011-12 team are Julian Washburn and Cedrick Lang. Washburn was a highly touted prospect that had interest from schools like UCLA, Texas, and Kansas. He was rated as a 4 star athlete with a scouting grade of 92 by ESPN. Julian showed his ability in the intrasquad scrimmage, and some in the first exhibition, but was absent from the second exhibition, after his mother unexpectedly passed away. Our thought and prayers are still with Julian, and we can't wait to watch him flourish into the star that he almost certainly will be.

Cedrick Lang is an extremely physical 6-9 PF who just knows how to go and get the ball. Whether it be on a loose ball or off a rebound, the guy just gets it. As a senior, Lang was nominated for the Gatorade and McDonald's player of the year award. He should mature into an outstanding post player for the Miners. He's got a great future.

Other players to look out for tomorrow, and for the season are guys like Jacques Streeter, Jalen Ragland, and Malcolm Moore. Streeter is a division 1 transfer from Cal St. Fullerton, who will bring experience and leadership to the table immediately. Ragland, a freshman from Chicolithe, OH, can flat out shoot, and could easily mature into a top scorer for the Miners. Moore, the lone JC transfer, was a 3rd team NJCAA All American, while averaging 16.3 points, and 7.5 rebounds a game.

The Miners also bring talented freshmen D'Von Campbell, CJ Cooper, Hooper Vint, Darius Nelson, and Tim Jacobs. Aside from Jacobs who didn't see action in the exhibition, every single new player showed flashes of excellence in their time on the court. It will be interesting to see how they mature in the coming months, and how the team excels once senior Gabe McCulley returns from injury.

I'm still not quite sure what to expect from tomorrow's game. We can't overstate the fact that we have 8 freshmen and 10 total new players, while our opponents return 4 of 5 starters from a team that it made it to the NCAA tournament. The Miners are 46-4 in their last 50 season openers, but CTF is actually 1-4 in his last 5, including last year's 66-61 loss to Pacific. No matter what happens tomorrow, this team is not one to be given up on. There is a boatload of talent, and it will only take Coach Floyd time to get them to play at their highest potential. It should be an interesting year, Go Miners!!

Game Projection: Miners 73, Roadrunners 69