Key players to watch:
- Omega Harris, G, Has cored the most points in a season opener during Tim Floyd’s UTEP era scoring 24 points last year against Louisiana College.
- Matt Willms, C, The 7’1 center was 14-for-17 from the field in UTEP’s two exhibitions.
- Trey Wade, G, UTEP, Athletic wing who was a high volume scorer in UTEP’s exhibitions.
- Jacquez Coleman, PG, Louisiana College, The junior guard is top returning scorer from last season.
Things we want to see UTEP execute
- Execute in the open floor
- No blow by’s, clean switches in defending screens on the perimeter
- Over 60% free throw percentage
- Stay out of foul trouble (Tirus Smith, Paul Thomas, Matt Willms)
ABOUT LOUISIANA COLLEGE
The Wildcats were 9-14 overall and 5-11 in the American Southwest Conference in year two under coach Reni Mason. Mason played for Floyd at New Orleans from 199-94.
They finished the season strong, winning five of their last six games last season. They have a rebuilt roster for 2017-18 with seven players returning (Jacquez Coleman, D’Aaron Davis, Palmer Hill, Lejawon LeBlanc, Torrian Lee, Travis Schultz, Timothy Stokes) and 11 newcomers. The top returning scorer is junior guard Coleman, who averaged 6.7 ppg and made 29 three-point field goals a year ago.
The lone senior is guard Lee, who collected 3.6 ppg and shot 78.9 percent (15-for-19) from the line in 2016-17. Junior forward Schultz shot 35.3 percent (12-for-34) from three-point territory a year ago. Another Wildcat to watch is junior guard Stokes, who paced the team with 109 assists and 51 steals while averaging 6.3 ppg in 23 games (22 starts) last season. Louisiana College is picked to finish fifth in the ASC East Division this winter, but did garner one first-place vote in the preseason league poll. The UTEP game counts as an exhibition for the Wildcats.
“We're all excited, and we should be," UTEP Coach Tim Floyd said. "It's been a long course for us. The players are ready to get this thing kicked off, and we are too as coaches."
"We need to get that established right off the bat, that we can play at a level good enough to win basketball games in non-conference," Floyd said. "That's going to take some new guys stepping up and playing well, and some of our older guys coming out and playing spirited. We've got a young guy in Tirus Smith, who has been limited because of foul trouble in the two exhibition games, that needs to get some minutes. We need to get a rotation semi-established, although it's going to change because of the youth on our team from game to game and sometimes week to week."
"I think our question mark going into the season is, 'Are we going to be able to rebound the ball?' We lost a really good rebounder in Dominic Artis a year ago," Floyd said. "We are a little bit thinner on the inside right now, kind of like we were the second half of last year. We're trying to get Tirus Smith into a rotation, Trey Wade into a rotation. Those guys are going to have to show us that they can. We really don't know. We'll be learning like our fans in that area."
This is a game UTEP really needs to fine tune things as the schedule gets challenging next week with the Puerto Rico tip off.
The hope is UTEP can start strong and avoid a slow start to this game, but UTEP should roll and be able to empty the bench, and play with rotations.
UTEP by 22…