The UTEP men's and women's basketball teams have taken completely different tracks this season, and their records will attest to that. Last week, the Miner men continued to struggle, while the women continued to win games. Let's take a look at what's going on around Miner Nation, Conference USA, and the country as a whole.
AROUND MINER NATION
The UTEP men returned home on Saturday to take on the UAB Blazers in a Conference USA matchup. The home date was much needed as the Miners were coming off a three game road trip in which they dropped all three. The change of scenery did little to help the Miners as the Blazers dropped in 9 threes, and F Jordan Swing, fresh off an injury, scored 19 points to lead UAB to a 61-60 victory.
John Bohannon had a career night with 22 points and 8 rebounds, Julian Washburn chipped in with 16 points, and Gabriel McCulley finished with 9. The loss, their 4th in a row, drops the Miners to 10-13 overall and 3-6 in conference play. The game marked the beginning of a 3 game homestand for the Miners so they will have two more chances to get back on the winning track. The red hot Tulsa Golden Hurricane come to town on Wednesday, and Tulane will be in town on Saturday.
The UTEP women were off last Thursday, but they didn't skip a beat, dropping Rice 45-41 Sunday in Houston. The Miners can attribute their win to solid defense and great rebounding. They held the Owls to just over 25% from the field, while out rebounding them 25-15.
The win gives the Miners 10 in a row, and takes them to 20-2 overall, and 9-0 in Conference USA play. The Miners, who went back and forth with the Owls most of the day, rode to victory on the shoulders of F Gloria Brown. Brown finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds, scoring 14 of her 16 in the second half.
Up next for the Miners will be two home games. Thursday they will take on Marshall at 7:05 and Sunday they'll square off against Tulane at 1:05. Also, the Miners have received 7 votes in this week's AP Top 25 poll, good for 35th in the nation. Congratulations to the Lady Miners. Keep up the good work.
Members of the 1991-1992 men's basketball team will be in town on Saturday, as they will be honored at halftime of UTEP's game versus Tulane. UTEP has been honoring different players throughout the season by retiring jerseys, and hanging banners from the rafters.
The 1992 Miners were a team that wasn't expected to do much, but they turned out to be one of the best in UTEP history. After going 16-13 the year before, the Miners had a 27-7 campaign that ended in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. The Miners finished at 12-4 in conference, tied for 1st place, but wound up losing to BYU on a 54 foot buzzer beater in the WAC tourney final.
They rebounded from that loss well, defeating the 8 seed Evansville in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, and then dropping top seeded Kansas to reach the Sweet 16. The Miners eventually fell to Final Four participant Cincinnati 69-67 in that round of 16, but they will go down in Miner history as one of the best ever.
The UTEP softball team enters the 2012 season with high hopes after a disappointing, injury plagued 2011 campaign. While most "experts" pick the Miners to finish last in conference, those closer to the program feel a bit different about things.
Last year the Miners finished 16-37-1, with a 1-22-1 mark in conference play. However, they return 12 players from last year's squad, and assuming they can stay healthy, they may have a shot to prove some people wrong. Here is what UTEP AD Bob Stull had to say in his recent article in the El Paso Inc.
"UTEP's optimism for the season is buoyed by the return of senior Camilla Carrera. The 2011 preseason C-USA Player of the Year, she received a medical redshirt after appearing in just 12 games.She led the Miners in batting average at .376, runs with 38, hits at 59, doubles 16, home runs at six, RBI at 52, walks at 30 and total bases of 93 two years ago.
Another senior standout for the Miners is Chelsea Troupe who, like Carrera, doubles as a catcher and utility player.The Oceanside, Calif., native finished the 2011 campaign ranked second in C-USA in batting average at .404, home runs at 14 and 37 runs. She led the team in slugging percentage at .885, runs batted in at 31, 27 walks, 92 total bases and on-base percentage of .543.Her 14 home runs were a single-season school record. Troupe was also a perfect 11-for-11 in stolen base attempts. Troupe was named to the preseason All-Conference USA team.
Joanna Krienitz and Cynthia Villastrigo will look to lead the Miner pitching staff. Krienitz made 24 appearances last season and started 10 games. Villastrigo, a transfer from the University of Chihuahua, will be in her first year at UTEP.The Miners' list of newcomers also includes transfers from Pima Community College: catcher and infielder Charissa Ballesteros, and Kansas pitcher infielder Colleen Hohman. Ballesteros batted .445 in 2010 and finished 2011 hitting .367 with 20 doubles and 81 RBI."
AROUND CONFERENCE USA
Tulane freshman Ricky Tarrant has really stepped up to the plate this year for the Wave basketball team. Since the team lost star F Kendall Timmons just weeks ago, Tarrant has made three straight appearances as the C-USA freshman of the week. Last week Tarrant averaged 16 points a game, going for 21 in a victory over Houston, and 11 in a loss to Marshall. Congratulations to Ricky Tarrant.
Joe Lunardi, ESPN's resident "bracketologist" has projected both Southern Miss and Memphis as 9 seeds in the NCAA tournament in his most recent projections. Lunardi has Southern Miss facing off against Illinois, the 8 seed, in the South bracket, and Memphis facing the 8 seed Wichita St. in the Midwest. Kentucky is projected the no. 1 seed in the South, while Ohio St. is given top honors in the Midwest.
Also, Southern Miss continues to win games, and make its way closer and closer to the top 25. The Golden Eagles, who are 20-3 overall and 7-1 in conference, received 51 votes in the AP poll and 9 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll. The votes place USM in 28th in the AP and 31st in the Coaches'.
Best Recruiting Classes In Conference USA
MinerRush will release their rankings of the 2012 recruiting classes in Conference USA. That will be a separate post that will be released either later today or tomorrow. Check back or follow on twitter (@thesportsloop1) to find out when those rankings come out.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
This may not have anything to do with college sports, but it is certainly the biggest story in the sports world on this Monday. Yesterday, the Giants defeated the Patriots 21-17 to become Super Bowl 46 champions. The Giants dropped the Patriots twice this season, and now twice in a Super Bowl in 4 years. While the New York Giants were busy dropping New England, the Pats were busy helping out by dropping passes. Check out what Tom Brady's wife had to say about that.
"My husband can not f------ throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can't believe they dropped the ball so many times," Bundchen said in a video captured by theinsider.com, a gossip website.
To be honest, she's exactly right. If Wes Welker catches that ball that he catches "100 out of 100" times, the New England Patriots would be Super Bowl Champs. I guess it was the 101st time. In any case, it truly seemed like the Giants were the better team yesterday. Eli Manning completed 30-40 passes for 296 yards, 1 touchdown, and no interceptions. That stat line earned him Super Bowl 46 MVP honors. Much deserved. As much as it pains me to say it, congratulations to the New York Giants, and all their fans.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
Conference USA Basketball Power Rankings
Not exactly what I was planning, having to decide where to put UTEP in the power rankings, but that will be the question for the second week in a row. After losing two games last week, and now four in a row, where do the Miners belong in this week's Conference USA Basketball Power Rankings?