After being handed a tough defeat at the hands of hated rival NMSU, UTEP looks to shore up their rebounding issues, and get back in the win column Saturday night in the Don.
One of top and best Mid-Major stories in the early going of the 2015-16 season is the UT Arlington Mavericks.
The Mavericks have famously won at Ohio State, at Memphis, and took Texas to overtime in a game they truly should have won but were not granted a first half three pointer that was counted as a two in their battle in Austin.
UTA returns six players from last season who started a game in the 2014-15 season led by versatile sophomore forward Kevin Hervey. They do have a road loss to LA Tech, but rolled UTEP's first two C-USA opponents Rice, and North Texas by more than 20.
Hervey is the only UTA player to score in double figures in all eight games for the Mavs, and has recorded five straight double-doubles including a 20 point, 15 rebound, and seven assist outing on Thursday against North Texas.
5'11 guard Erick Neal is second on the team in scoring, and leads the team with 27 assists, and 11 made three pointers and also has 11 steals. Neal also has a knack for penetrating effectively as he is second on the team behind Hervey with 36 free throw attempts.
Statistically, UTA doesn't have any gaudy numbers that jump out despite a +9.4 rebounding margin, but it's the intangibles, and the ability to play well together in Scott Cross' system that has made this team special early in the season.
In four of their wins including both Ohio State, and Memphis, the Mavericks shot less than 40-percent from the field, and forced more than 13 turnovers in each of those four wins. They do a great job of collectively jumping passing lanes with active defense, and will space you out on the offensive end.
UTA will use a sagging type zone on the defensive end in stretches, and will more than likely press on certain occasions to create turnovers. They also show the ability to spark game changing runs even after rough stretches which is why this team is so dangerous.
UTA junior guard Jalen Jones has had a nice stretch of late averaging 11.2 points per game in his last five games and is a capable shooter and a very strong athlete.
For UTEP rebounding has been the BIG issue in the past two games, and once again the Miners will have the task of keeping an elite rebounder off the boards. The Miners have been out rebounded 123-70 in the past two games, and their rebounding margin on the season is now at -2.1.
The biggest concern should be UTA's offensive rebounding percentage. 40-percent of the Mavericks rebounds come on the offensive end with six players who have at least 10 offensive rebounds on the season so far.
UTEP's guards will be asked more than ever to help out in this department, meaning Lee Moore, Earvin Morris, and UTEP's guards off the bench will be tasked with increased rebounding production.
Playing in the friendly confines of the Don could help UTEP shoot better than they did in Las Cruces as an effective UTA zone could force UTEP to make a few jumpers to soften it up with the mixture of defensive schemes UTEP could see.
Both Earvin Morris and Lee Moore were a combined 2-of-13 in the first half of the NMSU game, and both will be needed to get to the free throw line, and also drop in a few deep balls in this one.
An interesting matchup to keep an eye on is Terry Winn vs. Kevin Hervey.
Winn did a decent job on Pascal Siakam in a few stretches, but this Hervey v. Winn matchup will be about rebounding, and energy both bring to their respective teams.
As the Miners continue this tough stretch of out of conference games we will continue to learn more and more about the makeup of this team as conference play nears.
UT Arlington will surely give UTEP all they can handle, but how will the Miners respond after a tough loss?
Five things to watch
Kevin Hervey, F
This guy is a stud. Comparing his game to Vince Hunter with a jump shot is a pretty solid assessment, as he is becoming a double-double machine and is pretty active on both ends. Pascal Siakam is the best player UTEP has faced in quite some time, Hervey may test that notion Saturday night.
Erick Neal, G
He's smooth, quick, and will pick your pocket if you're not careful. Neal's ability to get inside the lane is a concern in keeping UTEP out of foul trouble, and Neal off the free throw line. Dominic Artis struggled against Ian Baker, and the active Neal will be even tougher to guard Saturday night.
Scott Cross could become a hot coaching commodity this off-season if UTA can continue their strong start to their season. It appears both coaches may be in a chess match down the stretch of what should be a very close game. Will CTF mix up his defense's like he did against NMSU, and how will Cross counter if UTEP is able to get out and run with ease? Cross is also known for changing defenses, should be one of the more interesting coaching matchups this season for UTEP.
Morris is UTEP's most proven, and true scorer, but the senior may have to become a more reliable and consistent rebounder for this team. Morris was held rebound-less against NMSU after averaging 4.5 in his first four games of the season. His superior athleticism and ability to get to the rim will always be there, but five rebounds or more will be key for a UTEP win Saturday, and wins for the rest of the season.
UTEP's senior big man took the NMSU loss personal. As UTEP's lone healthy center, the pressure of rebounding and post presence is squarely on Hoop's shoulders in some lineups. He will be the tallest player on the court for most of his minutes on Saturday, its almost imperative that Vint grabs eight or more rebounds per game ongoing even if that is a tall task to ask.
Three UTEP keys
- Rebounding (obviously)
- Control the tempo
- Execute man-to-man defense
UT Arlington (6-2) at UTEP (5-1)7:05 p.m. Mountain Time, SaturdayNo TV coverageUTEP opened as a 2.5 point favorite