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Miners Pastner-ize Tigers

Saturday afternoon, the UTEP Miners finally found the cure for what ailed them, 40 minutes of smothering defense. Somewhere Don Haskins had to be delighted by the defensive effort Tim Floyd’s Miners gave in front of more than 11,000 rowdy fans at the arena that bears his name.  The Bear probably would have dwelt on his teams 16-29 performance from the foul line or the Miners 15 turnovers, but Tim Floyd found nothing to complain about in his teams 74-47 drubbing of the Memphis Tigers.

It was the perfect ending to a wild week for the Miners.  It seems like a month ago that the Miners lost to UCF but that was just last Monday.  The entire country is aware what happened in Greenville on Wednesday.  At 9-5 the Miners remained tied for second in the conference with Tulsa, Memphis, and Southern Miss.  With their win over Houston on Saturday night, UAB is in sole possession of first place in the conference at 10-4.

Back to Saturday afternoon where defense set the tone for the Miners big win.  Tim Floyd said assistant Phil Johnson implemented the defensive game plan and it worked.  Memphis was a miserable 17-51 from the floor (1-18 from 3 pt. land) and were one and done on almost every possession.  UTEP scored 22 points of turnovers compared to 9 for Memphis.  You know things were going UTEP’s way when sparingly used Isaac Gordon picked a Tiger’s pocket and went coast to coast for an easy lay-up.

Randy Culpepper led the way against Memphis with 20 points. Photo by Steve Kaplowitz

The Memphis connection with this group of Miners is well documented.  Randy Culpepper, Jeremy Williams, and Gabe McCulley all hail from the ‘home of the blues.’  All three were overlooked by their hometown school and never seem to forget it when they play Memphis.  Culpepper scored a game high 20 and Williams was 3-5 from beyond the arc in his 14 point performance.  McCulley pulled down 6 tough boards and was a menace on defense.  Even when Memphis was a national power in 2008 and 2009 the Miners played them tough.  UTEP snapped Memphis’s 64 game stranglehold of C-USA last January, and yesterday handed them their worst conference loss in a long, long time.

The celebration will be short lived as it will be all business starting Monday.  UTEP has a critical week that will determine their seed in the conference tournament.  It’s  hard to believe but senior night is Wednesday when the Miners host a good Marshall team.  Coach Floyd relayed in the press room that Southern Miss. coach Larry Eustachy told him Marshall was more talented than Memphis.  The Thundering Herd also have a win over big brother West Virginia on their resume.  Saturday the Miners go to Dallas to take on the always pesky SMU Mustangs.  The C-USA standings are so tight that the Miners could be seeded anywhere from one to eight in the conference tournament!

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