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Miners Start Daunting Road Task With Middle Tennessee

Old friends meet in a C-USA Thursday night match up, with Tim Floyd's boys invading the Blue Zoo against Kermit Davis's Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders.

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

People around the C-USA are seeming to forget that Middle was the only current C-USA memeber to reach the NCAA tournament, Tim Floyd and the Miners haven't.

Floyd is well aware of what his former assistant at Idaho has brewing at Middle, and the C-USA should be on alert.

Coach Tim Floyd:

"They’re probably the most physical team in our league. They are very versatile, which we are not right now. We’re just going to try to go in and give ourselves a chance to win. That’s the challenge we have with three scholarship perimeter players. We’d like to shoot the ball better than we have and continue to rebound it like we have rebounded it. A lot of the little zone tricks that we run are stuff that Kermit gave me back in 1986 when he worked for me at Idaho. He is as talented as any coach I’ve ever had. I’ve had 11 guys go on to become Division I head coaches. I’m not worried about Kermit as much as the players, and they’re very good as well. It will be a real challenge for our guys. We’ll have to play very smart and very hard and match their effort because we’re going to see a fine basketball team."

Kermit Davis has the Blue Raiders really rolling after winning the Sun Belt regular season crown in back-to-back seasons.

Davis was an assistant under Floyd at Idaho for two years. then Davis took over the program after Floyd left for New Orleans.

There is no doubt this team is battle tested having played five teams who were with the Blue Raiders in the NCAA Tournament bracket last year.

Like Floyd, the Raiders like to run multiple defense's, and have some very versatile players. Floyd gave Davis his first college job as an assistant. .

Shawn Jones and Neiko Hunter are studs at the forward spots, providing the Miners with some difficult matchups, Jones is averaging 8.8 rebounds a game.

Jones is also a slim leader in points over Hunter, Jones averages 14.4 points a game with Hunter averaging 13.8.

Kerry Hammonds II is a threat from behind the three point line, as is reserve guard Jaqawn Raymond who has hit 21 3-balls, though the Raiders like to attack the paint.

Middle Tennessee is also one of the deeper teams in C-USA as well, and most experienced with seven seniors.

This will a huge task for the shorthanded Miners, who play back-to-back roadies for the first time all year .

UTEP already thin at point guard, is going to be without reserve guard Victor Mbachu who will miss the road trip with academic issues. Tough break for Vic who was really coming along and improving with each minute he earned in practice.

Meaning C.J. Cooper could see 40 minutes at the point guard spot both Thursday and Saturday.

John Bohannon is having a stellar start to the C-USA season, while earning C-USA Player of the week honors, Bo averaged a double-double in the process. Bo has averaged 18.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in the past four games for the Miners

A third scorer must emerge for the Miners to keep up with the fast moving, and competitive C-USA. Could or is that third scorer Vince Hunter?

UTEP has done an exceptional job rebounding and defending the past eight games, lead by Bohannon and Cedrick Lang, though Middle Tennessee is a very physical group, something UTEP has struggled with this season.

The Blue Raiders boast a 38-3 mark at home since the 2011-12 season, also winning 25 straight conference games at the Murphy Center.

There is no denying that UTEP has struggled on the road in their C-USA life span, UTEP is 27-36 in conference road games, and 3-5 in road openers.

Middle Tennesse ranks second in the conference in blocked shots per game (4.7), and also sits 30th nationally in rebounding margin.

Meanwhile the Miners rank 1st the C-USA in fiel goal percentage defense, with Bohannon ranking second in the conference in the defensive rebounds department.

This the first of what should many conference battles between the two schools.

Both play a similar style, relying on defense and rebounding, should be a great start of a rivalry between the two schools.

Here is how they break down statistically.

UTEP Miners

Current Record: 11-6, 1-1 C-USA

Key Players:

Julian Washburn, 12.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg

Vince Hunter, 10.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg

John Bohannon 11.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg

Team Stats

Points Per Game 69.7
Opponents 65.7
FG% .448
Opponents% .377
3-point% .318
Opponents% .291
Free Throw% .689
Rebounds Per Game 37.1
Rebounding Margin +0.5
Assists Per Game 13.5
Steals Per Game 4.9

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Current Record: 11-5, 1-0 C-USA

Key Players:

Shawn Jones, Sr, F, 14.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 8.8 apg

Neiko Hunter, Sr, F, 13.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg

Tweety Knight, Jr, G, 7.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 5 apg

Team Stats

Points Per Game 76.8
Opponents 68.5
FG% .458
Opponents% .417
3-point% .318
Opponents% .351
Free Throw% .657
Rebounds Per Game 39.1
Rebounding Margin +6.3
Assists Per Game 14.3
Steals Per Game 4.9