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Southern Miss. at UTEP Game Preview: UTEP starts crucial stretch with USM

An important two game home stand will dictate C-USA tournament seeding heading into the final weeks of conference play.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Starting this weekend and heading into next weekend, UTEP will face three teams all vying for a chance at a fourth place finish in the Conference USA standings.

It all starts with Southern Miss Thursday night, but matchups with LA Tech, Charlotte, and Old Dominion loom as potential games that will have major impact on the standings.

When the Golden Eagles swept UTEP and UTSA to end January, Doc Sadler's squad looked like a legit dream season buster, but has recently come back down to earth by losing four straight.

One of those losses was a double-overtime short coming against UAB last Thursday.

Khari Price was instrumental in their effort against UAB.  Price owns three of USM's four double-doubles on the season, but was held field goal-less in the first matchup against the Miners in Hattiesburg.

Kourtlin Jackson hit a pair of three pointers, and scored 15 points in the first matchup with UTEP.  Him and Price were a combined 17-of-19 from the free throw line in the first go-around.

Jackson has hit the 20-point plateau five times this season, including 21-points against UAB.

Southern Miss knocked down 12 three pointers in the first matchup with UTEP.   Raheem Watts is 15-of-44 from deep since USM's win over UTEP, and Michael Ramey was 4-of-5 from deep against Middle Tennessee last weekend.

The Golden Eagles have made at least seven 3-pointers in each of the last six games.

Being shorthanded has been Doc Sadler's biggest issue with the looming NCAA dealings since he took over in Hattiesburg, but will get a minor reinforcement as 6'8 senior forward Michael O'Donnell has been cleared from a shoulder injury and is expected to play Thursday.

The big question will be does Doc Sadler slow down, and muck up the game down as expected, or does he try to keep up with UTEP from beyond the arch with a fast paced, quick trigger approach.

Either way, the Miners must be prepared for both.

Another thing to keep an eye is bench scoring.

Golden Eagles' bench has outscored their opponents 240-199 this season, or an average 20.0 to 16.6 points per game, they also have used 10 different starting lineups this season.

For UTEP, can the offensive surge continue?

The Miners are averaging 93.5 points per game in their last four, and have a chance to put together the best five game offensive stretch in school history on Thursday.

Lee Moore, Earvin Morris, Dominic Artis, and Omega Harris have been solid, so has Terry Winn who has led UTEP in rebounding during this four game winning streak.

UTEP is averaging 79.1 points per game at home this season, while shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three-point land at home.

The Miners have scored 80+ points seven times in 15 home games, including in five of their last eight.

Omega is shooting 8-of-14 from three point land during the four game win streak.   UTEP has shot 50 percent or better from the field in four of its last five games, something that only happened once in the previous nine contests.

During the five-game stretch the Miners' field goal percentage is .510 (156-for-306) and their three-point percentage is .420 (34-for-81).

Defensively, UTEP allowed 84 points to USM in the last matchup, and will look to improve their execution on the defensive end as its been hidden by UTEP's torrid offensive pace.

It's getting down the home stretch, and UTEP looks to be finding themselves in different areas, but has this team turned a consistency corner?

Four keys to a UTEP win

  • Lock-down the perimeter
  • Get to the free throw line
  • Rebound
  • Force turnovers

Who has the edge?

Guards: UTEP

Frontcourt: Even

Shooting: UTEP

Rebounding: Even

Defense: Even

Intangibles: UTEP

Miner Rush's Opening Line: UTEP -14.5