Miners See Three-Game Homestand as ‘Opportunity to Recollect’
Turmoil and adversity have been no secret to the UTEP men’s basketball team (9-6, 0-2 C-USA).
But on Thursday evening, the squad has a chance to turn the page and put aside these odd few weeks as they host Southern Miss (4-11, 0-2 C-USA) at the Haskins Center.
“It’s definitely an opportunity to recollect,” said UTEP’s leading scorer Bryson Williams. “A team that pushes through adversity is a winning team, a successful team. Adversity is good for us, some growing pains for us and no matter how much adversity comes our way, we need to compete and play Miner basketball.”
The adversity and growing pains didn’t come lightly though. There were internal and external problems that affected the Miners through these past weeks.
Internally, the Miners have seen a whirlwind of a transfer fiasco. First off, sophomore guard Nigel Hawkins entered the transfer portal and just a day later, fellow sophomore guard Jordan Lathon entered the portal to leave for family reasons. Both players are back with the team as Hawkins rejoined the group two days after the announcement, while Lathon returned to practice this week following a 10-day departure.
Hawkins will remain the starter at point guard and Lathon will work his way back into the rotation.
Last week head coach Rodney Terry was hospitalized in a Miami area hospital due to an allergic reaction which sidelined him for the first two Conference USA road opener matchups. He is back with the team this week and will coach on Thursday.
Back to normal, right?
On the court, UTEP has lost five of their last six games, including four losses by five points or fewer. The group was unable to close out against Florida International (69-67) or Florida Atlantic (59-56). Their inefficiencies start on offense, where they have struggled in shooting numbers (31 percent 3-point FG) and with turnovers (15.3 per game).
“We need to get better in practice every day and challenge each other the get better in practice every day,” Terry said. “But there is a lot of basketball to be played and we have to do that every 40 minutes by 40 minutes. We need to take care of the ball and clean some things up. We need to fix our rebounding and work harder for those.”
UTEP hasn't played at home since Dec. 17 when they beat UC Irvine to win the Sun Bowl Invitational championship. The Miners are 8-0 at home for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
This was a week where the Miners could evaluate their recent obstacles and move past it with a three-game homestand.
“We had a lot of reassurance talks and coming-to-home talks," Williams said. "We haven’t been playing up to par. We haven’t been playing Miner basketball and what we’re capable of.”
Hawkins, who has started at the point guard position in place of the absent Lathon, talked about a player's only meeting that the team had this week to try and get everyone back in order.
“We had to reiterate what we are going to do as a team and that’s to win a C-USA Championship. We have to work towards it,” Hawkins said.
Southern Miss, on the other hand, has struggled this season with a tough non-conference slate and lost the first two C-USA opener games to LA Tech by a combined score of 158-99. Gabe Watson leads the Golden Eagles (13.1 ppg), while the squad features three other double-digit scorers in Tyler Stevenson (11.9 ppg), Boban Jacdonmi (10.8 ppg) and LaDavius Draine (10.7 ppg).
After facing Southern Miss on Thursday, the Miners will be tasked to face LA Tech on Saturday and UTSA on Jan. 15 at home.