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UTEP basketball: Miners start the season shorthanded against Loyola (N.O.)

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The work in progress that is the UTEP basketball team starts their 2015-16 season Saturday night.

With so many new faces, pieces, and possible rotations, the Full Monty that could be the UTEP basketball team probably won't come together until mid-December.

Until then, the Miners will be a work in progress with the hope of winning as they navigate through their out-of-conference schedule.

"We'll go through another adjustment period when these young men that are sitting out join us," Tim Floyd said. "So we are really a work in progress right now and we are going to be for a while. But let's hope that we can win some games along the way while we're doing this and learn our lessons while we are winning. That would be the ideal situation."

"You have to cover everything," Floyd added. "We're throwing everything out. Then you have to go through the retention period. What did we forget from last week? Then we've got to go back and repeat. Nothing is second nature right now. Nothing is instinctive. And there's a lot of thought going on."

"Everything is a repeat. These guys are all new. We're just having long practices that are very detailed and very repetitive, to where our guys now are getting to a point where it's becoming easier for them."

UTEP will be without senior Earvin Morris, and freshmen big men Terry Winn and Christian Romine as they continue their suspensions in which Floyd said on Wednesday that they are progressing in what they need to do to see the floor again.

What UTEP will have is the dynamic Lee Moore who averaged 22 points, and 13 rebounds in UTEP's two exhibition games.

"Exhibition games are really great for us because we have an opportunity to watch these young guys with the lights, and we have the opportunity to watch them progress from game to game, which I think we have," Floyd said. "We haven't gone through any adversity yet. And that tells you a lot about a club. But I like the makeup of our team. I certainly like the makeup of our guards."

What was also told of UTEP's exhibitions is the impact Dominic Artis will have at point guard.

Artis scored 19 points in UTEP's final exhibition game, but also added five assists, and five rebounds along with three steals that ended up being the difference in the final score.

The Miners will also usher in some of their new backcourt depth to real game action with Trey Touchet, Jake Flaggert, Tevin Caldwell and Victor Mbachu seeing their most extensive regular season action in a couple of years.

Down low UTEP will rely upon senior Hooper Vint, and the injured Matt Willms who could see a slight increase in minutes in UTEP's season opener. The Miners will also roll out a pair of talented freshman in Paul Thomas and Brodricks Jones who showed some chemistry together in UTEP's final exhibition.

As far as Willms, its still a day-to-day progression as he plays with a serious foot injury.

"We're going to continue to monitor him based on what our trainer's recommendations are," Floyd said of Willms. "And those things change week-to-week. A lot of that will be based on his conditioning ability as well -- how long he can go and how hard he can go. We sure need him out there. He's a talent and he sure needs the minutes. It's an important time of the year for him."

While UTEP is still trying to find their identities, Loyola-New Orleans has already played four regular season games and could have possibly found a few themselves.

The NAIA members are 2-2 on the young season, and have averaged 85 points per game so far.

UTEP's 60X2 defensive principle will be after 6'4 guard Jalen Gray, and 6'5 wing Johnny Griffin who are Loyola's leading scorers.

Gray is averaging 20 points per game, and has gotten himself to the free throw line at least eight times in each of Loyola's first four games.  Griffin is shooting an efficient 57 percent from the field, and has also got to the free throw line nine times twice this season.

Rebounding has been the big question that has followed this young UTEP team, while Loyola has had a +12 rebounding margin in each of their first four games.

Led by Griffin who averages nine boards per game he's helped out by 6'8 Ryan Smith who averages 6.5 rebounds, and sneaky athletic 6'2 guard Tre'Von Jasmine had a five offensive rebound game against Carver College.

Floyd said on Wednesday that UTEP will continue to play man-to-man, even with the issues in help defense, and defending the pick-and-roll.

Those two aspects have been the main focus over the past couple of weeks, and will surely be tested early and often here early in the season.

UTEP opens their 95th season of college hoops, and Tim Floyd begins his sixth season at the helm of the UTEP program.  The long journey to growing and putting together a team with postseason hopes has already started, but now everything counts.

MinerRush's opening line: UTEP -12.5