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UTEP Miners vs. Rice Owls Game Preview

The UTEP Miners will take on the Rice Owls tonight in a CUSA game at the Don Haskins Center. Tip off is slated for 7 pm El Paso time.

Cedrick Lang prevents being posted up by a Tulane player
Cedrick Lang prevents being posted up by a Tulane player
Billy Murray-

The UTEP Miners (12-8, 5-2 CUSA) will take on the Rice Owls (5-16, 1-6 CUSA) tonight at the Don Haskins Center. This is the first match up between the two schools this season. The Miners will head to Houston on March 2nd for the second meeting between the two schools. UTEP's next home game will be on February 9th as the Miners will take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.

This will be 26th meeting in the series between the Miners and the Owls. The Miners lead the all time series 14-11. UTEP last played Rice back on February 29th, 2012 back at the Don Haskins Center. The Miners fell to the Owls 68-61 behind Connor Frizzelle's 12 points. Arsalan Kazemi also had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Owls. Gabriel McCulley led the way for the Miners scoring 17 points in his final home game. John Bohannon had 13 points and 9 rebounds. Julian Washburn also pitched in with 13 points.

The Rice Owls are currently in a rebuilding mode after posting a 19 win season last year. A big blow to the team came during the offseason when their most prolific player Arsalan Kazemi requested and was granted a transfer to Oregon for his senior season. Other than that, this team has only four players returning from that squad last season. Don't be surprised by their horrible record, this Rice team has stuck in almost all their games this season with the opportunity to win and simply came up short. Rice's lone CUSA win came against their cross city rival (Houston Cougars).

Rice last played on February 2nd at home against East Carolina. The Owls lost by a final of 79-63. Senior guard Tamir Jackson (6'3 194 lbs) led the way for the Owls scoring 19 points to go along with 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. The only other Owl in double figures was Junior guard Austin Ramljak (6'3 170 lbs) who had 12 points, 2 steals, a rebound and an assist.

Rice is currently ranked 304th in the nation in points per game at 61.0. The Owls are currently ranked 347st in rebounds per game at 25.3 and 290th in the nation in assists at 11.2 per game. Rice shoots 40.7 percent from the field which ranks them 286th in the nation.

The Miners are coming off a 62-50 win over Tulane back on February 2nd. The score really did not dictate how the Miners played that night. UTEP once again saw the stat monster known as McKenzie Moore (6'6 190 lbs) emerge on the floor. McKenzie had 14 point points to go along with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block. Sophomore guard/forward Julian Washburn (6'7 205 lbs) had 12 points, an assist and a rebound. Senior guard Konner Tucker (6'4 185 lbs) had 11 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. This game had some controversy as Junior forward John Bohannon (6'10 210 lbs) suited up but did not play as per Coach Floyd's choice. Instead we saw Freshman center Hooper Vint (6'10 220 lbs) get some minutes that will surely help him come next season.

The Miners are currently ranked 259th in the nation in scoring at 63.8 points per game. UTEP ranks 302nd in the nation in rebounding (31.5) and 160th in assists (13.0) per game. The Miners are currently ranked 94th in the nation in field goal percentage at 45.0 percent per game.

Statistical Leaders:

UTEP Miners:

Points- Julian Washburn (12.2), Konner Tucker (11.9), John Bohannon (10.7)

Rebounds- John Bohannon (6.5), McKenzie Moore (5.1), Cedrick Lang (4.5)

Assists: Jacques Streeter (5.2), Julian Washburn (1.7), McKenzie Moore (1.7)

Rice Owls:

Points- Tamir Jackson (16.4), Julian DeBose (9.9), Max Guercy (9.7)

Rebounds- Tamir Jackson (6.2), Julian DeBose (4.6), Seth Gearhart (3.0)

Assists- Max Guercy (2.6), Tamir Jackson (2.4), Keith Washington (1.7)

Final thoughts: The Miners are 5-2 in CUSA play. While this is a good record, I believe that we should be 7-0 and tied for first place with Southern Mississippi and Memphis but the truth is, we tend to shoot ourselves in the foot on the road. Having a three game home stand right now in the middle of conference play is the best thing that can happen for this UTEP team. If UTEP can go 3-0 while at home, I believe that they will get their confidence back heading into their match up against the University of Houston next Wednesday. For UTEP to win tonight against Rice they must score early and score often. We tend to let the lesser teams stick around when we should be blowing them out of the water. Score points, play tough defense and sink your free throws and you got yourself a win.

Prediction: Miners 67, Owls 59