Miners Primed to Regroup After 0-2 C-USA Start
Seeking to avenge their first two losses in C-USA play, the Miners (5-8, 0-2 Conference USA) will have their week set on preparing to host North Texas (15-1, 3-0) and Rice (7-9, 2-1) on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
UTEP is coming off back-to-back losses to UTSA (on the road and at home), where the Miners committed 34 turnovers and shot 36.8 percent from the field through the two games.
The Miners will play four of their seven C-USA games in January at home, where the Miners are currently 5-3, opposed to their winless 0-5 record on the road.
Winning in the Don is a priority for head coach Rodney Terry and his squad.
"They’re learning [importance of winning home games] and you do whatever you can do to win home games," Terry said at his weekly press conference. "One of the most difficult things in college basketball is to win on the road. There are growing pains. You have to understand how to put it together. It’s the process. At the end of the day, we know we need to win home games."
UTEP was without freshman starting guard Jordan Lathon in their two-game skid, who is fourth on the team in scoring (9.3 points per game) and leads the team in assists and steals per game.
The difference when the team has to go from an eight man to a seven man rotation is significant, according to coach Terry.
"When you have a short rotation of guys, it’s a big deal when one guy goes down because that’s one less guy that you can have in key situations," he said. "You don’t have the luxury of going down the bench and getting another guy, so it gives another guy an opportunity to get some things done but you do feel the loss when you’re down a guy."
UTEP hopes they will get Lathon back this week, as he continues to make progress on his hamstring that he injured during practice last week.
"Jordan’s made a lot of strides," Terry said. "We’ll give him a go on Tuesday-Wednesday to see where he’s at little bit with his injury and see if he’s ready to go. We probably could’ve played him in the last game, he was probably 75-80 percent. You want to put someone’s out there when he’s 100 percent."
As for their preparation this week, Terry says that the Miners will continue to focus on winning the game off the glass and limiting turnovers, which has been a problem as of late. The Miners are now nearly -3 in the turnover margin on the season.
"Any time you give teams second chance opportunities, you don’t want to do that," Terry said. "When UTSA’s team got rebounds, they kicked out the ball and got shots. You have to limit those opportunities."
When taking on a team that has won seven in a row like North Texas on Thursday, Terry believes that although the Miners have lost three of their last four, they can contest anybody in C-USA when they are on.
"When we’re doing what we practice and execute the way we want, we feel that we can compete with anyone in our league," Terry said. "We can also lose to anyone in our league when we’re not. I think again, our young guys are growing every day and they’re understanding what it takes to be successful at this point."
Tip-off for Thursday's game is set for 7 p.m. in the Don Haskins Center. The game will also be streamed on ESPN+ with 600 ESPN El Paso's Duke Keith on the call.