The UTEP Miners (4-5) and the Clemson Tigers (6-4) square off in the opening round of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamondhead Classic. The two teams have met four times previously, with all four coming in the Sun Bowl Tournament. UTEP is 3-1 versus the Tigers, including a 69-59 victory in the most recent meeting. That game took place on December 29th, 1982
Clemson enters the contest at 6-4 on the season, and is coming off of back to back wins over Winthrop (60-40) and Alabama St. (70-45). The Tigers have also defeated Gardner-Webb (65-44), The Citadel (73-50), Furman (59-49), and Iowa (71-55), while losing to College of Charleston (72-69), Coastal Carolina (60-59), South Carolina (58-55), and Arizona (63-47). Andre Young and Devin Booker lead the way for the Tigers with 13.7 and 9.9 ppg, respectively.
The Miners come into the contest at 4-5 on the season, but have been playing much better since Gabe McCulley has entered the lineup. The young squad is actually 3-1 in their last four. Gabe McCulley is averaging 12.8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block. Julian Washburn, who has been the C-USA freshman of the week two times in a row, is putting up 11.3 points a game, and Mike Perez is averaging 10.8 points on the season.
Both squads enter the contest searching for their first 3 game win streak of the season, but only one will be able to reach that mark. Both teams pride themselves on their defense so we shouldn't expect a ton of scoring. But, that's exactly the type of game the Miners need, and if we can get on them early we should have a chance to pull this one out. The winner of this contest will take on the winner of the Kansas St./Southern Illinois game, and the lose will take on the loser of that contest. Hopefully, all goes as planned. Go Miners!!