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UTEP basketball: Second exhibition to continue depth development

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With the Miners down three potential starters again, CTF & Co. will get to further evaluate UTEP’s depth.

Minus the main expected contributors for the 2015-16 season, UTEP will face double-directional East-Central Oklahoma on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in the Don Haskins Center to finish UTEP's exhibition slate.

Earvin Morris, Omega Harris, Terry Winn, and Christian Romine will miss UTEP's exhibition as they are serving "suspensions."

The big story over the past couple of weeks is the eligibility question of former Oregon guard Dominic Artis who scored 20 points, dished out 13 assists and pulled in six rebounds in UTEP's Orange and White scrimmage.

Tim Floyd said: "We feel the situation with Dominic Artis has progressed, we anticipate that he will play."

British swingman Josh McSwiggan is still rehabbing his knee, and will not play this Saturday while Jake Flaggert is also questionable with an ankle injury.

JUCO transfer Lee Moore stole the show in UTEP's first exhibition with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and a clutch performance in the final four minutes that Miner fans could get used too.

"It's nice to have a guy where you can run things for him on the perimeter."  Floyd said of Lee Moore.  "He can go create his own shot which is an intangible that every team needs.  He has the ability to break out of an offense and do things sometimes in the fashion that Randy Culpepper would do on his own and go get you a play, and that's always nice for an offense."

While Moore had a superb game in his UTEP debut, Floyd is still looking for some improved guard play after the Miners turned it over a sloppy 19 times against Cameron.

The particulars could be Trey Touchet, Victor Mbachu, and Tevin Caldwell who figure to be key reserves this year for UTEP and will benefit from extended minutes in UTEP's first two exhibitions.

"We've got to emphasize the fact that guard play is important." Tim Floyd said.  "19 turnovers are too many; those guys have to get us into play."

This one isn't about wins and losses, it's about UTEP cleaning up things they struggled with in the first exhibition like defending the pick and roll, and overall help defense.  And also executing principles instilled after five days of practice after UTEP's first dry run.

"Wins and losses are not as important as our guys getting better at this point." Floyd said.  "It's so much easier offensively than it is defensively.  We got to get to a point where we are worried about the other guy getting beat."

"Communication is a huge part of it."  Hooper Vint said of UTEP's pick and roll defense.  "I'd say we communicated pretty well, but we didn't do it correctly.  We've tuned it up in practice; we have been working hard on it. "

UTEP won the rebounding margin against Cameron despite allowing 14 offensive rebounds, and executed the Floyd game plan of shooting more three throws than the opponent made.

Those aspects are good marks to see stand out early, but also seeing freshman Paul Thomas have an efficient and productive first exhibition will be key going forward with theme of developing UTEP's depth.

"Paul is a young guy who is really intent on trying to be as good as he can be." Floyd  said.  "He's a great listener and that helps when you're athlete. He hears what we're trying to do, and gets a little better every day."

East Central Oklahoma won 21 games last year and finished second in the Great American Conference with guard Stirling Thomas leading the way.

The 6'0 Thomas averaged 19.3 points per game last year, and set a school record for three point makes in a season.

The Tigers tallest player is 6'7, although 6'5 forward Braxton Reeves is a player that could be relied up for rebounding production after ECU lost its leading rebounder from last year to graduation.

ECU will actually face Oklahoma State Friday night before they arrive in El Paso for Saturday's dance with the Miners.

With Saturday marking a week until the regular season gets underway, UTEP gets another dress rehearsal under the lights in continuing to get the kinks out, and allowing UTEP's depth to get much needed minutes in a game situation.