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Middle Tennessee at UTEP Preview/Open Thread

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Can UTEP make it a weekend home sweep?

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

UTEP Miners

Current Record: 13-7, 5-3 C-USA

Projected Starters:

Omega Harris, Fr, G, 7.1 ppg,

C.J. Cooper, Sr, G, 71 ppg, .3.4 apg

Julian Washburn, Sr, G, 9.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg

Vince Hunter, So, F, 15.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg

Cedrick Lang, Sr, F, 10.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg

Team Stats

Points Per Game 69.8
Opponents 63.3
FG% .473
Opponents% .410
3-point% .348
Opponents% .343
Free Throw% .638
Rebounds Per Game 35.7
Rebounding Margin +2.0
Assists Per Game 14.4
Steals Per Game

5.4

The Miners bounced back off the schnide using smothering defense in the final seven minutes, and some much needed senior leadership that helped overcome a red-hot UAB squad.

Talking to Julian Washburn after the game, you can sense the level of high urgency by the seniors from his tone, body language, and re-emergence of his always smooth mid-range jumper last night.

"Once we lost those two games we knew we had to turn it around," Washburn said, "Us seniors made a big emphasis on playing better, and playing harder, and I felt like we all came out and competed."

This goal remains the same as Washburn continued: "We just have to keep playing and make sure we win conference, it doesn't stop here."

Coach Floyd wasn't too fond of his guard play against UAB, calling it "suspect", and the Miners will be tested against one of the more active defensive teams in the conference.

One of the unsung heroes of the UAB win keeping on the senior leadership topic was the play of Cedrick Lang.

Without Lang's 10 rebounds, the Miners lose. The Miners were getting punished in the paint in the first half, but big Ced would have none of that in the second half en route to an outstanding near double-double effort.

With Matt Willms possibly either missing significant time, or being limited, production within the minutes of Lang, and Hooper Vint will be critical in UTEP's quest for a conference run. With a possibility of diminished depth in the front court, rotation and foul trouble are trends to keep an eye on as well.

UTSA had some great scoring production from their big's in Thursday's win, pounding the paint the paint, and getting to the free throw line seems to be a MO Floyd embedded in the team during this week of practice, with an extra emphasis on defense.

To break down Middle's zones or aggressive man looks, the Miners will have to exhibit patience, and constantly have movement towards the basket, something that has been inconsistent for most of the year.

We had a great discussion on Willms in the UTEP vs. UAB recap thread, but you can't deny the kid's heart and willing to put it out on the line for his team.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Current Record: 12-9, 5-3 C-USA

Projected Starters:

JaQuel Richmond, Fr, G, 3.5 ppg, 80% FT shooter

Jaqwan Raymond, 6'4, Jr, G, 7.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg

Marcus Tarrance, 6'6, Sr, G, 6.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg

Reggie Upshaw, 6'7, So, F, 9.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg

Jacquez Rozier, 6'7, Sr, F, 8.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg,

Team Stats

Points Per Game 61.6
Opponents 60.9
FG% .404
Opponents% .435
3-point% .342
Opponents% .343
Free Throw% .707
Rebounds Per Game 34.4
Rebounding Margin +3.4
Assists Per Game 11.1
Steals Per Game

5.9

One of the longer benches, and rotations in the league puts its 5-3 record against the Miners after a second half slump helped UTSA put Middle Tennessee away Thursday night in their first leg of their C-USA Texas tour.

Defense and rebounding is the calling card for Middle as they have been in the top 50 nationally in scoring defense the past three seasons. This year is no different with the Blue Raiders being one of two teams in the country that has held every opponent under 75 points.

Just like Floyd, CTF disciple Kermit Davis will switch defense's like socks, but also has constant subs coming in and out playing with match ups which attributes to ten different Blue Raiders leading Davis' squad in scoring this season.

Other than LA Tech, UTEP won't face a team that has more active hands and pressure from a number of defenders on the perimeter than Middle which will put UTEP's guard play on an ultimate test of keeping the flow and ball movement a strength for UTEP.

Offensively Middle is 12-1 when they score 60 or more point this season, with a majority of their production coming from the bench due to Davis' rotation patterns.

Reggie Upshaw Jr. leads Middle Tennessee in scoring with a 9.5 per game scoring average, but is averaging 10 points per game when he comes off the bench this season.

Using their intense pressure, active athletes, and sheer effort on the defensive end usually leads to everyone running out looking for the break once a rebound or turnover is recorded.

Upshaw along with Jaquez Rozier, and Perrin Buford are the best finishers around the rim, UTEP will be pressured in contesting every look around the rim while not putting a 70 percent free throw shooting team at the line.

UTSA used a 2-3 zone that stymied Middle Tennessee's ability to work the ball inside which in turn Middle settled for long jumpers that lead to a major scoring drought in the final ten minutes of the game.

One player that cannot be forgotten is guard Jaqawn Raymond.

Raymond has struggled from deep in his past two games, but is a great defender who has the ability to score from the outside. He scored 19 points last season against Tulsa in the C-USA Tournament thanks to five three pointers.

Rebounding by committee has been another identity of the Blue Raiders under Davis, they sport a +5.8 rebounding margin in conference play with Roizer and Upshaw leading the charge on the glass.

Match ups, strings of defensive stops with their pressure, and executing in the open floor is MT's mojo to keeping it close in the Don.

A-ROD's opening line: UTEP -12.5

Game Information
Who? Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at UTEP Miners
Date/Time Saturday, January 31st, 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time
Location Don Haskins Center, El Paso, Texas
TV/Radio

No TV

Play-by-Play Available on the TuneIn App, or 92.3 FM In El Paso In English, Spanish 1650 AM In El Paso Also available on the TuneIn App.

Series Record UTEP leads 1-0