Since the 2013 season, there's been a thorn in UTEP's C-USA side.
Its name: The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.
UTEP has only beaten the Dunkin' Dawgs once since the newly formed C-USA was introduced, that lone win came back in 2013.
LA Tech had no trouble scoring on Thursday as they shot 60.4 percent from the field to easily pick apart UTSA 87-74.
A matchup advantage UTEP could have is the possible absence of 6'8 forward Erik McCree who missed the UTSA game after sustaining an injury last weekend against UAB. His status for Saturday is questionable.
The Dawgs didn't miss a beat minus the talented McCree as an impressive scoring balance led by Alex Hamilton carried them to their fourth straight 20-win season on Thursday.
6'8 forward Merrill Holden is starting to come into his own, notching 18 points, and nine rebounds against UTSA, and has averaged 14 points, and seven rebounds in his last three games.
It will be interesting to see if Tim Floyd uses the same defensive game plan from the first meeting in where LA Tech had to knock down twelve 3-pointers, and was kept out of the lane and off the free throw line.
Alex Hamilton always has to be accounted for, but it was Jacobi Boykins who went 5-of-7 from deep in the first battle in Ruston.
Dayon Griffin is another difference maker from behind the arch. He tied the C-USA singe game record for 3-point field goal percentage with a 7-of-8 outing against Charlotte back on January 9th.
It will be a battle of teams appearing to find their groove with LA Tech being winners of seven of their last eight, while UTEP comes in looking to tie their season high win streak of six games.
It could become an up, and down the court, wild, and athletic driven game, but the winner remains on the fast track for a chance at a fourth seed with just three games left after Saturday.
Key Matchups to keep an eye on
Alex Hamilton vs. UTEP's zone
Hamilton was patient and effective in handing out nine assists despite a 4-of-16 mark from the floor in the first game with UTEP. His patience should be tested again; it will be tough for a single UTEP defender to slow him down so UTEP's zone could become a factor once again. But if UTEP can execute their zone like the first time, it will make for another difficult scoring game for the top player in the conference.
Lee Moore vs. Dayon Griffin
Both have been key factors during their team's recent stretch of success, and will be relied upon in a big way on Saturday. Griffin has hit multiple 3-pointers in 11 games this year, and Moore is starting to play up to his high scoring, high impact potential. A big game from either guard could dictate the final score.
Merrill Holden vs. Terry Winn
In a game filled with plenty of interesting guard matchups, Holden v. Winn should be fun for years to come. Both are slowly becoming important pieces for their programs, but it will be Holden who will have to fill the void on the boards if McCree is unable to go. As long as Winn stays out of foul trouble he is problematic for teams in a number of areas. Added production from either forward gives their team an extra edge.
UTEP keys for a win
- Avoid long scoring droughts
- Extend defense, and press
- Get to rim, and finish
- Avoid foul trouble
Who has the edge?
Rebounding: LA Tech
Defense: LA Tech
Intangibles: LA Tech
Miner Rush's Opening Line: LA Tech -3.5
LA Tech (20-6, 9-4) at UTEP (16-11, 8-6)
Saturday February 20th, 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time
CBS Sports Network