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Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational Preview

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The oldest holiday college basketball tournament in the nation gets underway Sunday evening inside the Don Haskins Center.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

UTEP Miners

Record: 6-4, Conference USA

Key Players:

Vince Hunter, So, F, 16.4 ppg, 10.3 rpg

Julian Washburn, Sr, G, 10.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg

For UTEP, its about how do they respond after a tough loss just 24 hours ago to third ranked Arizona.  The disturbing trend of slow starts hurt the Miners again, as they had more turnovers than field goals in the first five minutes for the second time at home this season.  I would expect Tim Floyd to tinker with some lineups, particularly the starting lineup as we have all seen what works and what doesn't in certain situations.  The good news for UTEP is for the third game in a row, the defense has been back to up to the par we have expected out CTF teams and particularly this one.  Two big tuneup opportunities, some have earned important minutes, while some have yet to show,  but a huge pair of games for the Miners to solidify their conference contending legitimatizes.

Alcorn State Braves

Record: 1-8, SWAC

Key Players:

LeAntwan Luckett, Jr, F, 15.2 ppg

Marquis Vance, So, F, 10.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg

LeAntwan Luckett, returns as Alcorn State's big gun.  The 6'4 Luckett is a great athlete, though is in a shooting slump in his last two outings going 10/25 from the field.  Marquis Vance leads the Braves with 6.8 rebounds per game, also chipping in 10.8 points per game.  Alcorn has seen their share of road struggles by not reaching more than 57 points in their six road losses.  The Braves are shooting just 37.4 percent from the field, while their opponents are firing 48 percent from the field.  No one averages more than three rebounds per game outside of Vance.

Kent State Golden Flashes

Record: 7-2, MAC East

Key Players:

Devareaux Manley, Sr, G, 10.5 ppg, .476 3PT%

Kris Brewer, Sr, G, 11.0 ppg, 3.3 apg

One of the better three point shooting teams on the possible UTEP docket, Kent State leads the nation in three point percentage against Division one opponents.  Senior guard Devareaux Manley hit seven out of ten three point tries, and poured in a career high 24 points in a 77-51 rout of North Carolina A&T on Friday night.  Manley is part of a trio of talented back court players that have helped Kent State reach the label of an elite three point shooting team.  Point guard Derek Jackson recorded four steals on Friday and dished out a career high 11 assists in a game earlier this year.  Kris Brewer completes Kent State's version of the Ohio Big Three. Brewer was named to the Preseason All-MAC East Team and provides scoring off the bench.  The Flashes have also seen themselves playing top level defense holding opponents to under 40 percent on the season and are ranked 32nd nationally in scoring defense.  They have also won three straight including two on the road.  Like UTEP they have a rebounding machine from Detroit in  Khaliq Spicer who off the bench has two double digit rebounding games, and is averaging close to six boards.  Sophomore newcomer Jimmy Hall is their leading rebounder  and scorer averaging 7.1 rebounds per game, and has scored in double figures in eight of Kent's nine games.

North Dakota State Bison

Record: 6-4, Summit League

Key Players:

Lawrence Alexander, Sr, G, 17.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg

Kory Brown, Jr, G, 10.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg

The 2014 NCAA Tournament first round darlings make their Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational debut with a great match up with Kent State. The Bison are led by three point assassin Lawrence Alexander and is ranked 29th in the nation in average makes from three per game with 3.2.  Alexander also ranks 6th in school history in assists.  Another good shooter is freshman guard Paul Miller who is 10/20 from three point land, and 92 percent from the free throw line.  NDSU appears to be a rebound by committee team, and held their last two opponents which included Akron to under 50 points. They also do a good job of taking care of the ball as they only average 10 turnovers a game, and have five players who have more than 10 assists.  Junior Cory Brown was a second team All-Summit League selection who is also 10 out of his 13 tries from the field.

Tournament schedule:

Sunday

North Dakota State vs. Kent State, 5:00 p.m. Mountain Time

Alcorn State @ UTEP, 7:00 p,m, Mountain Time

Monday

Consolation Game, 5:00 p.m. Mountain Time

Championship Game: 5:00 p.m. Mountain Time

No TV, stream available when UTEP plays via MinerTV (subscription)