With full control of their own top four seeding destiny in the C-USA Tournament, UTEP heads out on their final regular season road trip starting with Florida Atlantic on Thursday.
FAU and UTEP went into overtime back on January 14th in El Paso with Miners coming out with the W, and the Owls have lost three of the last four, but is still a team that can get hot from long distance.....just ask Ohio State.
“Florida Atlantic has won four of its last seven [games] with all four wins on the road, at Old Dominion and at Charlotte and a really decisive win at Southern Miss most recently,” Tim Floyd said. “One of their losses in that stretch was to Rice in overtime. This is like an entirely different team. I know we’re different, but they’re different as well.”
One of the key players in the last matchup with UTEP was Junior guard Gerdarius Troutman.
The sharp shooter exploded for 22 points thanks to six three-pointers at UTEP on Jan. 14, and has been inserted into the Owls’ starting lineup for the last seven games. He scored 25 points at Southern Miss on Saturday, including seven threes and is a corner 3-pointer specialist.
Florida Atlantic is fifth in C-USA in three-pointers per game (7.3) and has committed the fewest turnovers in the league (291).
6’4 guards Adonis Filer and Nick Rutherford are two of their main contributors. Filer is averaging 13.2 points per game in their last five, and Rutherford is one of the top free throw shooters in the league with the ability to get their consistently.
Matt Willms will matchup with Ronald Delph who is ranked 120th nationally according to KenPom in blocked shots percentage.
UTEP is one of 11 schools with non-conference winning percentages below a .300 winning percentage, but have turned things around and are now above .500 in league play.
“It’s a good story for us certainly just looking internally, based on the emotions and how we felt and what we’d gone through early in the season,” Floyd said. “We got a guy healthy in Matt Willms. We got a player get much better in Paul Thomas. As a result of Matt’s getting better, Trey Touchet and Jake Flaggert are now getting shots in rhythm, Dominic [Artis] and Omega [Harris] are playing better. It’s a nice story right now.”
Dominic Artis was 14th in the nation in minutes (36.7 mpg), 17th in assists (6.0 apg) and 27th in steals (2.1 spg) through Feb. 19. Artis continues be a leader in crunch-time, and the senior leader continues to make his teammates better.
Artis has also been key in UTEP’s patient offense which effectively making UTEP’s inside-out scheme efficient with the extra pass and ability to finish around the rim.
Over the last 11 games, UTEP has outscored opponents in the paint 348-222 with at least 40 points on four occasions, and they are also taking care of the ball and making the most of their possessions.
The Miners have also committed just 122 turnovers over the last 11 games, an average of 11.1 per outing. and over the past 11 games. They’ve also outscored opponents 144-109 in points off turnovers. In the first 15 games they were outscored 257-224.
UTEP also allowed just 10 fast break points in the past seven games, all of which came against North Texas last Thursday.
With two more road games left, this UTEP team can continue with their upward tick in the C-USA standings, but FAU is a team not to be taken lightly despite their 5-9 conference record.
Overall, its about the conference tournament coming up in March, although staying the course is a key aspect Tim Floyd is preaching to his team as the regular season winds down.
“We know that we’re approaching the conference tournament.” Floyd said. “And as long as we focus on each other and trying to make each other better every day, we’re going to be OK regardless of if we lose a game or two and have a bump in the road.”
Keys to a UTEP win
- Make shots
- Take out Troutman
- Stay out of foul trouble
- Take care of the ball
UTEP has played six C-USA games decided by five points or less this season to tie the school record set by the 2014-15 team.
That record could be snapped this weekend as the Miners will matchup with an equal foe making Thursday’s game a legit toss up.
Staying out of foul trouble is UTEP’s main key almost every time out, but limiting Troutman to tough looks could be the difference.
FAU has the ability to fill it up from deep, and that is worrisome, but the heroic, and clutch efforts of Dominic Artis puts another win the win column for UTEP.
UTEP by 3....