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Northern Arizona at UTEP Game Preview

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UTEP's next two home opponents have a combined record of 3-18, giving UTEP a chance at some much needed confidence starting with Northern Arizona Saturday night in the Don Haskins Center.

The Lumberjacks, like UTEP, come in reeling ranking close to dead last in the country in field goal percentage shooting just 35.4 percent on the season.

5'10 guard Mike Green leads the team in scoring, coming off a 6-of-13 shooting performance against Santa Clara in their latest loss.

NAU takes the 12th most 3-point attempts in the nation, averaging 26.7 attempts per game.

6'7 forward Jordyn Martin might be their best athlete, and is a matchup red flag on paper. He's averaging 10.4 points per game, and 8.2 rebounds per game.

6'3 freshman guard JoJo Anderson who is a Houston native, dished out 10 assists against Arkansas-Little Rock in their season opener, and does a really good job of penetrating and getting to the free throw line.

Defense has been a major issue for the Lumberjacks as well, teams have a +1 assist-to-turnover ratio, and shoot 46 percent from the field against them.

UTEP will look to shake off a five game losing streak, as they are off to one of the worst starts in school history.

The Miners are allowing opponents to shoot 47 percent from the field, and 42 percent from 3-point land which doesn't bode well against a team like NAU who will fire it up from long distance. UTEP ranks dead last in C-USA in both defensive categories.

Tim Floyd has thrown the idea around of scrapping UTEP's man-to-man defense, discussing a point-zone look that fits UTEP's personnel of speed on the perimeter. UTEP's help defense off the dribble drive, and inability to close out on shooters against good ball movement in man-to-man have been constant struggles in stretches.

Another area UTEP has struggled is converting turnovers into open floor scoring chances.

UTEP was 6-for-27 in open floor chances against NMSU, meaning 20 of NMSU's turnovers from Tuesday night led to open floor chances, but the Miners were a sluggish 22 percent overall in those chances.

Dominic Aritis, and Omega Harris continue their strong starts to the season, but the question always is who will be the third scorer.

Arits leads UTEP in rebounding, assists, and steals, and is the only player in the country who averages 15 points, six rebounds and eight assists. He's also currently on pace to shatter UTEP's school record for assists per game averaging eight dimes per contest so far.

After only scoring 20 points or more twice in his first two years as a Miner, Omega Harris has notched two 20-point games this season, and has scored in double figures in 14 of his last 16 games.

The health of Matt Willms continues to be a growing concern as he deals with a broken nose that has been a difficult thing to play through. Coach Floyd said on his radio show earlier this week Willms has been having trouble breathing, and is not the same player we saw dominate the Charleston Classic.

UTEP desperately needs a positive stretch here in December, can this team find their way against teams "they should beat."

Keys to a UTEP win

  • Chase down long rebounds off of missed NAU 3-pointers
  • Close out on shooters, communicate
  • Attack the rim, get to the line
  • Deon Barrett 3-pointer daggers off wide open looks

Prediction

Both teams struggle defensively, so this could actually be an entertaining high scoring affair.

If UTEP continues to struggle defending the 3-point line, NAU will like shooting in the Don like many other teams have recently.

UTEP needs this win bad, and Tim Floyd should have a solid game plan.

Miners win by six….