Paul Thomas is UTEP’s Key to Making C-USA Tournament
The UTEP men's basketball team needs some late season magic if they want to play in Frisco at the C-USA Tournament next month. The team is currently in 13th place with a record of 3-9. Unfortunately for the Miners, there is a five-way tie for the eighth spot with Louisiana Tech, FIU, Florida Atlantic, Rice, and Middle Tennessee all 5-7 in league games. The key for UTEP's late season push is not their freshmen or sophomore leaders. It is their lone senior, Paul Thomas.
Despite playing well during his first two years with the Miners, Thomas has not resembled the same player during his junior and senior campaigns. In fact, through the first five games of conference play, the Houston native had more turnovers (9) than overall points (5). He has also battled foul trouble this season, but six of the nine games he fouled out were during non-conference play.
As rough as 2018-19 has been for the Miner senior, Thomas came alive last Saturday night against FIU with arguably his best all-around game of the season. He finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds and gave UTEP a huge lift in the second half to spark their win over the Panthers. "That's a critical spot, a play-making spot," head coach Rodney Terry said Monday. "When he's playing like that, it makes our offense a lot more efficient."
Thomas and the Miners will play in Ruston tomorrow night against Louisiana Tech and then on the road against Southern Miss on Saturday. Adrian Broaddus has a great write-up on UTEP's three keys for their late season road trip.
Saturday evening, C-USA will release the final four games for their regular season. "Bonus Play" will put teams into three pairings: 1-5, 6-10, and 11-14. Unless the Miners sweep the road trip and get some help, they will be in the bottom grouping.