Five Takeaways From UTEP’s Win Over NMSU
The streak is over. UTEP dominated their I-10 rivals last night and cruised to a 65-50 win over the Aggies in front of 8,933 fans at the Don Haskins Center. There was a lot to digest following the Miners win.
1. UTEP's defense will cause a lot of trouble this season. Head coach Rodney Terry stresses suffocating defense, and that was evident at times last season. However, he has a full roster to work with and a team full of terrific athletes. The Miners will create plenty of turnovers and they have a chance to be one of the better defensive teams in college basketball this season.
2. Foul trouble did not dent the Miners against NMSU. Bryson Williams was in foul trouble all game long and he still finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds in just 17 minutes. Jordan Lathon and Efe Odigie also picked up four fouls in the second half and UTEP never lost control of the game with three of their top players on the bench. Depth is a major asset for Coach Terry and that was on display last night. The scary thing is that the Miners only played eight against the Aggies, with Anthony Tarke and Deon Stroud not incorporated into the game plan.
3. Jordan Lathon has transformed himself into a solid point guard. Last season, Lathon and fellow freshman Nigel Hawkins were given the opportunity to develop their play over the course of the season. While Hawkins has battled injuries, Lathon has taken a huge step forward as the team's point guard. His stat line against NMSU was impressive: 13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals in 34 minutes, and he led the team in efficiency with a plus 22. The sophomore has a chance to be a terrific player over the next three seasons and gives the Miners a talented point guard who can do it all.
4. Both of these teams will look different in March. The Battle of I-10 will resume December 3rd at the Pan Am Center in Las Cruces, but both rosters should be the same as last night's first meeting. The Miners will add 6'4 combo guard Kaden Archie in December, who transferred from TCU. Meanwhile, the Aggies will get back senior guards A.J. Harris and Clayton Henry who are both out with injuries. Harris fractured his finger last month and is due back in mid to late December while Henry tore a ligament in his thumb and is expected back by the beginning of conference play. Trevelin Queen was terrific against the Miners, leading all scorers with 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. Queen did not have much help as UTEP shut down the rest of the NMSU lineup.
5. The crowd was unusually quiet last night. UTEP has done a good job with their #DefendTheDon campaign, but the Haskins Center was not as loud as many expected for the rivalry game. Some Miners fans said on social media that they are not used to having a good program to root for like the UTEP teams of the 1980s and the noise will take time to build. The loudest ovation of the night came when former Miner and current Green Bay Packers star running back Aaron Jones was introduced wearing his Texas Western throwback jersey.