The UTEP Miners (14-15, 7-8) square off against the SMU Mustangs (12-18, 3-12) at Moody Coliseum in Dallas in what is the final regular season game of the year. Tipoff is slated for 1:00 p.m. MT. The game will not play into C-USA tourney seeding for the Miners, as they are locked into the 8th spot, but SMU could still either be the 11th or 12th seed.
UTEP leads the overall series with the Mustangs 25-14, and the Miners have won 17 of the last 18 matchups between the two schools, and have gone 13-1 since joining Conference USA. The series is tied 8-8 in games played in Dallas, but the Miners have won 7 of the last 8 of those as well. Coach Tim Floyd holds a 3-0 all time mark against SMU.
The two teams last met on January 14th at the Don Haskins Center in a game that wound up being decided in overtime. In that game, Michael Perez tied it up at 53 with under a minute to play, and a three pointer at the regulation buzzer fell for the Mustangs, but it was determined that the shot came after the clock read triple zeros.
The Miners escaped in overtime that night 70-64, giving them their ninth straight win in the DHC over SMU. John Bohannon led the way for the Miners that night, scoring 20 points, while going perfect from both the field (7-7) and the free throw line (6-6), while also pulling down 8 rebounds. Mike Perez also chipped in with 16, while Gabriel McCulley finished with 15.
The Mustangs come into the contest at 12-18 overall, and 3-12 in conference play. They have certainly had a rough go at things the second half of the season, dropping 12 of their last 15 games. They are fresh off losses to both Houston and Southern Miss, but in the Mustangs defense both were close and both were on the road.
SMU is led by senior F Robert Nyakundi who averages 15 points and 4.7 rebounds a contest. Junior G London Giles, the only other player to average double figure scoring, is good for 10.4 points a game, and both freshman G and sophomore G Jeremiah Samarippas averages better than 7 points a game.
The Miners enter the contest at 14-15 overall, and 7-8 in Conference USA action. A couple of weeks ago it seemed as though they had things headed in the right direction, as they dropped Tulsa, Memphis, and Southern Miss in a two week span. Since then however, the Miners have dropped two straight, and just really haven't seemed to be there mentally.
As we near the end of the season, we have four Miners who average double figure scoring. And, all are withing .4 points of each other. Senior F Gabriel McCulley averages 11.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game, sophomore C John Bohannon averages 11.4 points, and 7.4 rebounds, sophomore G Michael Perez averages 11.4 points, and 2.5 rebounds, and freshman G/F Julian Washburn goes for 11.1 points, and 3.3 rebounds a game.
Considering the play of the Miners over the last week, its impossible to expect a win here in Dallas. This SMU team may be down, but they certainly aren't out. They're competitive, they're at home, and it's senior night. I wouldn't expect anything easy. Hopefully the Miners can break out of this mental funk, and play a full 40 minute game, or as near to it as possible. If they do, we should see a Miner win. Go Miners!