The Next Step for UTEP Basketball is Winning on the Road
The confetti has been swept up and the celebrations have seized from UTEP's buzzer-beater win over Rice on Saturday, which now leaves the Miners to regroup and prepare for their C-USA road slate this week.
The Miners (6-9, 1-3 C-USA) will hit the road this week to take on UAB (10-7, 2-2) and Middle Tennessee (3-14, 0-4 C-USA) on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
But, UTEP is 0-5 on the road this year so far and continues to fight for their first away win of the season. Granted, the Miners' travel schedule hasn't been easy, dropping games to Arizona, Marquette, NMSU, New Mexico and UTSA.
“Our guys are trying to learn what it takes to win on the road," Rodney Terry said. "Winning in college basketball on the road is extremely difficult. You have to be dialed in on the game plan 100 percent. You have to know exactly what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. You gotta win the 50-50 balls – all those things, all those nuances go in winning on the road."
2018-19 C-USA Men's Basketball Standings
UAB enters Thursday's game with an 8-1 home record and boasts the league as one of the prime rebounding teams. They are first for their +7.1 rebounding margin as a team. However, the Blazers are coming off back-to-back losses to FIU and FAU last week.
"You see a team that is a really aggressive team, especially from a rebounding standpoint," Terry said. "Those guys do a great job rebounding the ball defensively. Offensively, they come to the glass. They don't take any possessions off in terms of rebounding the basketball."
Practice this week for the Miners emphasized rebounding to the tee.
“It was probably the number one thing," said freshman guard Nigel Hawkins on rebounding against UAB. "We know that they are very good as a rebounding team and we need to block out in order to get out there and have a chance to win."
Middle Tennessee is currently undergoing a 13-game losing streak. The Blue Raiders have yet to win a C-USA game this year and rank among the worst in the conference for their scoring offense.
“Every win in conference is important and very hard to get," Hawkins said. "So if we get one on the road, it would be big for us."
Tip-off against UAB is set for 6 p.m. MT Thursday, while MTSU will tip-off at 4 p.m. MT on Saturday.
Lathon rides a high-point as a two-way guard
Coming off his buzzer beater shot against Rice, Lathon has reached a strong stretch in his play. He continues to put up points offensively and can guard the opposing team's best player on defense.
He recently cracked the C-USA top-15 in assists to turnover ratio, while defensively he averages almost two steals and one block per game.
“He came in with ammo as being a defensive guy," Terry said. "Defensive minded guy that takes pride to guard and defend."
Hawkins and Lathon, who have become the x-factors in the backcourt for the Miners, have developed good chemistry when they share the floor together.
“Us being young and having the potential that we do, I like playing with him and gives us a good chance at getting things done," Hawkins said. "[Defensively] it’s just him wanting to lock down and wanting to score. He has good size and athleticism. He’s just a dog."
Hawkins earns first C-USA Freshman of the Week Honor
Hawkins was named C-USA Freshman of the Week yesterday after scoring a career-high 24 points against Rice and 11 points versus North Texas last week.
He joins Lathon and freshman forward Efe Odigie as the three players on the squad that has received this honor.
“Very special," Hawkins said on receiving the honor. "First time for me individually. It was big to get our first [conference] win and to be able to contribute in a big way."
When it comes to developing freshmen like Hawkins, Terry explains that consistency is everything.
“The biggest thing with freshmen is throughout the course of the year they’re battling to try and be consistent," Terry said. "Freshmen go up and down. They have peaks and valleys. When a freshman finally reaches his maturity in terms of what we think he’s going to be, he’s consistent all the time. When those guys are consistent all the time, obviously it elevates our team and elevates our program."