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Southern Miss at UTEP Game Preview

NCAA Basketball: Texas-El Paso at Southern Mississippi Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The little things like missed free throws, front ends of 1&1's, and bad turnovers haunted UTEP in Thursday's loss to LA Tech. But the Miners get a chance to avenge an early conference loss with Southern Miss headed for El Paso.

USM has lost seven of their last nine after starting C-USA play 2-1, and have been dealing with unfortunate injuries that continue to set Doc Sadler and program behind the 8-ball.

The Golden Eagles are without reliable guard Kahari Price, and their most experienced interior player Tim Rowe as the Golden Eagles fight for a C-USA Tournament spot.

UTEP's number one target on the scouting report will be 6'2 guard Cortez Edwards who went 7-for-8 from the field and scored 17 points against UTEP in the first meeting.

6'7 forward Quinton Campbell will be a close second on that scouting report. He dropped 24 points on UTEP the first time around, and is averaging 15.6 points in his last three games including a 24-point outing against Marshall on February 2nd.

Another 6'7 forward, Eddie Davis is also emerging as a playmaker although he only played six minutes on Thursday against UTSA, but is a major contributor who uses the most offensive possession on the team.

UTEP's defensive game plan will be interesting as Southern Miss runs one of the slowest paced offense's in the nation, and is one of the shooting teams in the country.

The Miners are the second worst free throw shooting team in C-USA, and it showed Thursday as UTEP went 13-for-23 in Thursday's loss to Southern Miss.

A healthy Matt Willms will be a plus against Southern Miss due to the fact Doc Sadler does not have the height to match the good stretch of basketball Willms is currently playing.

Willms efficient field goal percentage according to Ken Pom ranks 11th in the conference, and he's shooting 59 percent on his two-point tries this season and has scored in double figures in five straight games for first time in his UTEP career.

The guard matchup also favors UTEP, but can the Miners guard tandem of Omega Harris and Dominic Artis recover after sub-par performances, and a possible mental breakdown in the closing seconds against LA Tech.

UTEP finds itself in a five-way tie for fifth place in the C-USA standings, and with four straight games on the road coming up, Saturday is a must-win for UTEP to continue its upward trajectory after a terrible start to the season.

Keys to a UTEP win

  • Pound the paint (guards too)
  • Dominate the glass
  • MAKE FREE THROWS
  • Stay out of foul trouble (Willms/Paul Thomas
  • Don't settle for what Doc's defensive game plan is giving

Prediction

Doc will have a nice game plan for UTEP on the defensive end, but the Miners shouldn’t have issues getting the ball inside with smart play.

Southern Miss seems to be hanging on by a thread, and while Thursday's loss was a major setback for UTEP, the Miners still played well in stretches.

Willms and/or Paul Thomas should have double digit scoring games, but can they both stay out of trouble against Southern Miss' physical forwards could dictate how in control UTEP will be of the lead.

I want to say UTEP rolls, but Southern Miss will fight, although UTEP should finish this home stand 3-1 ahead of an important road trip.

UTEP by six….