Like, Zoiks! Miners-49ers a Preview of Effort, Frustrations to Come for UTEP
That's right, Miners-49ers, just like Scooby-Doo. But it was UTEP that got the scare with a sneak peak of what the rest of its season might look like Thursday night in the Haskins Center.
The Miners stayed close to the 49ers of Charlotte and had their chances, firing up the crowd of 7,625 with some late-game heroics and threatening to climb back into the game.
They would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those kids and their darn dog. Or poor shooting and Charlotte's Mike Thorne, Jr. Take your pick. Either way, the 49ers got a big road win to start their Conference USA slate, 73-68, over the scrappy-but-undermanned Miners.
Thorne really is almost a kid, but the 6-11 redshirt sophomore plays his size well. He punished UTEP in the low post on both sides of the court, scoring 16 points and ripping down 14 rebounds before fouling out late in the second half.
As many post players as the Miners still have on their roster, no one could pull this Thorne out of UTEP's side. John Bohannon, Cedrick Lang, Matt Wilms, Vince Hunter -- take your pick, Thorne was an apparition for every Miner tasked with stopping him, including head coach Tim Floyd.
"He went through us," said Floyd of Thorne. "He's a little thicker, a little stronger. I think he utilized it. He crushed us getting back on the offensive boards. We didn't get a body on him and when he didn't have the ball he just ducked into the middle of the lane. We were standing to the side of him, he'd catch it deep and just go back and just jump hook it back in."
Playing with just nine scholarship players, there could be more of the same in store for the Miners, forced to kick leading scorer McKenzie Moore and guards Jalen Ragland and Justin Crosgile off the team in the wake of the FBI investigation into the three for gambling on sporting events.
UTEP plays host to Marshall Saturday night at the Haskins Center, and fans are restless but supportive, as the Miners try to corral the Marshall Thundering Herd.
There is a lot of heart, there is a lot of determination -- this we know. But what we don't know is just where the Miners' Mystery Machine will carry them in 2014.
See Tim Floyd's post-game press conference below.