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UTEP at FIU Game Preview: Streaky teams meet for a second time

UTEP and FIU come into Thursday’s game looking to shake losing streaks that have held them back in the standings.

After thrashing UTEP back on January 23rd, the Florida International Golden Panthers have dropped their last four games in where all have been decided by five points or less.

UTEP is still searching for road win number one on the season after turning up the offense this past weekend.

The 205 points scored over the weekend by UTEP is now tied for the third most points scored in back-to-back games in school history.   UTEP has now scored 80 or more points nine times this season.

Lee Moore has scored at least 18 points in four of the last five games, and has shot over 45 percent from the field in all five games.  Moore is averaging 17.4 points per game during the five game stretch and recorded the first double-double of his UTEP career against WKU.

Seeing Earvin Morris get his offensive game going was another huge positive for UTEP.

Morris has scored in double figures in five straight games, and despite some struggles from behind the three point line, Morris was 9-of-13 from the free throw line against WKU.

One of the main reasons UTEP was able to score at will was their ability to get in the paint and finish.

UTEP shot 52 percent on two point attempts over the weekend, and averaged 47 points in the paint in last weekend's wins.

That aspect has helped UTEP from getting crushed on the boards, and you're seeing multiple rebounders emerge over the past few games with the improved offense.

Against FIU, the key will be slowing down and matching up with Daviyon Draper.

Draper scored a career high 25 points in their latest loss to Middle Tennessee on Saturday.

He also has been on an eleven game offensive tear reaching double figures in each of those games, as well as notching three doubles-doubles during the stretch.

Tim Floyd admitted Terry Winn was having trouble guarding the quicker Draper, possibly taking UTEP's most physical presence out of the picture in this one.

While Draper got his against UTEP in the first matchup, FIU's guards did a number on UTEP's guards.

The key will be keeping Kimar Williams, and Donte McGill out of the lane as both combined for seven assists and just two turnovers in the first meeting.

Draper also added six assists as FIU's guards did a great job of attacking the paint, and finishing at the rim while Draper worked the baseline.

FIU has the best field goal defense percentage in the league, mostly attributed to Adrian Diaz's shot blocking ability.

But they are also one of more the physical defensive teams that has played in the Don this year, forcing UTEP to jack up 24-three pointers in the first meeting and they also cashed in on 16 points off UTEP turnovers.

Turnovers were a big issue this past weekend for FIU.   They turned it over on 22.4 percent of their possessions against UAB. And despite crushing Middle Tennessee on the boards, 14 FIU turnovers put 16 points on the board for Middle.

FIU has the home court and matchup advantage in the front court, but can UTEP's hot offensive streak find its way to South Florida?

Who has the edge?

Frontcourt: FIU

Draper owned the baseline, and Diaz finished almost everything around the rim in the first go-around.   Hooper Vint has regressed over the past four games, as the four guard look has been UTEP's strength over the last three games. Will UTEP continue the four guard look to disguise the struggles in the front court?  And can Hoop find his stride?

Backcourt: UTEP

UTEP's guards were out played in the first matchup, but if this past weekend was any indication of what is to continue, UTEP will have a nice advantage. Getting Omega Harris going is the only thing that will make an already deep advantage, something UTEP can use to win.

Rebounding: FIU

UTEP's offensive production dictates the rebounding margin, and the consistency of efficient offense has been a constant over the past couple of weeks.  Draper, and Diaz give FIU the major edge on the boards, but UTEP's guards have been doing a much better job in helping out on the boards.

Shooting: Even

When UTEP makes jumpers, this team can be pretty deadly. But when they don't fall, that is where UTEP gets into trouble. FIU shot over 45 percent from the field against both UAB, and Middle Tennessee which is impressive.   UTEP has struggled on the road from the floor, but we all know any given night this UTEP can light it up.

Miner Rush's Opening Line: FIU -5

UTEP (13-11, 5-6) at FIU (11-13, 5-6)

Thursday, 5 p.m. Mountain Time

No TV, Radio Only