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UTEP at UTSA Preview: Guards vs. Guards

UTEP took a much needed break to try to get healthy, and prepare for a road win.

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The Miners took some lumps in the loss column and on the injury report last weekend, now UTEP looks to get back on the winning track with a visit to San Antonio to face the UTSA Roadrunners.

For UTEP, the new question this week is how will this team respond after two losses and the possibility of being shorthanded in the front court once again.

"We got down and were able to fight back," Tim Floyd said of last weeks road trip.  "You can go one way or the other.  You can lay down or you can continue to fight."

Hooper Vint has been dealing with an issue with his back, and Terry Winn has been recovering from a rolled ankle at Middle Tennessee.  Both are day-to-day according to Floyd.

"Terry Winn and Hooper Vint have not practiced with us this week," Floyd said.  "They're both day-to-day.  That will have a lot to do with how we play and who we play.  [UTSA] is scoring the ball very well and that always bothers you."

Despite a rough go last weekend, there were some positives that came about.

Namely Earvin Morris snapping out of a three game scoring slump as the senior from Memphis drilled five three pointers in the loss at UAB.

"I think the fact that we made some shots - Earvin Morris got his head up - is positive.  Ivan [Venegas] had some solid minutes, which is positive."  Floyd said.  "Jake Flaggert played his best basketball in probably a month, which is positive.  [There were] a lot of takeaways that we like.  I thought Hooper Vint had a really good road trip.  He played well.  We did all that without Terry Winn, which is a positive.  At the same time, we're not defensive rebounding and giving up way too many second chance points, we're giving up too many free throws on the road ... things that we need to shore up to get better."

Flaggert reached double figure scoring numbers for the first time this season, and with Winn, and Vint's status up in the air, Ivan Venegas could see the most minutes he's seen all year against UTSA.

UTEP has yet to out rebound a C-USA opponent so far, something the Miner guards will be tasked with against UTSA, especially if Winn and Vint can't go.

Looking at the matchups, UTEP's guards versus UTSA's guards will be something to watch.

UTSA was searching for a spark to avoid a single digit win season, and found one last weekend with 6'4 guard J.R. Harris. Harris went 15-of-30 from three point land in two games last week, and is averaging 23 points in his last three games.

Harris set a school record with 10 three-pointers against UAB, six of which came in garbage time, but still the kid can light it up and is second on the team in made threes.

"I didn't know anything about [Harris] until last weekend," Floyd said.  "He has really changed the dynamic of their team.  They have a team that struggled scoring and now they're putting up a lot of points and it looks easy for them offensively."

Ryan Bowie always has to be accounted for, the senior sharp shooter is another volume scorer who has improved his scoring from inside the three point line, and dropped a season high 33 points against Southern Utah earlier this season.

Both Christian Wilson, and Gino Littles are another pair of capable scoring guards, but turnovers, and bad offensive flow have been issues for UTSA this year.

Littles was out last week with an apparent leg injury, but Tim Floyd said Littles will be out there on Saturday.

Only one UTSA guard, Wilson, has more assists than turnovers, and as a team the Runners allow 85.7 points per game, and team's shoot right at 50 percent against them on the season.

UTSA has a couple of capable big's like Lucas O'Brien, A.J. Cockrell and, Nick Allen, but the trio of freshman hasn't played up to their potential thus far.

Guarding out on the perimeter, and securing boards seems to be an every game key for UTEP, but executing in the open floor off UTSA turnovers should be another emphasis as the Miners have shown the ability to force turnovers.

On the 60X2 notion, Harris and Bowie will draw the most attention, and with the Miners possibly being shorthanded, CTF will once again take a hold of the defense with multiple looks.

UTEP is 0-4 on the road this year, and as always there will be some or way more UTEP orange and blue in the San Antonio.

But with more adversity in the way, how does the team respond?

Miner Rush's opening line: UTEP -7.5

UTEP (10-7, 2-2) at UTSA (3-14, 1-3)

Saturday January 16th, Convo Center, San Antonio, Texas

2:00 p.m. Mountain Time Tip off

TV; American Sports Network