UTEP at Charlotte: Four Final Questions Before Tipoff
The UTEP Miners (13-10, 4-6 Conference USA) hope to put aside their inconsistent conference play and their road inefficiencies as they prepare for a tough two-game Conference USA road swing this week.
Here are four final questions before UTEP tips off against Charlotte:
Can UTEP get production from its backcourt?
The inefficiencies that the guards pose this last week were the main talking points for UTEP Basketball. Head coach Rodney Terry questioned the recent play from the likes of Nigel Hawkins and Jordan Lathon following their game against UAB last week.
We haven’t seen the development from either point guard this year as we expected we would. The two averaged in double figures last year as freshmen and were supposed to be among the top returners to this team this year. Ever since both players entered the transfer portal and came back in January, they have not been the same.
Hawkins has been the most consistent of the two, although he did not attempt a shot on Saturday against the Blazers. Lathon, on the other hand, has not made a field goal since Christmas Day.
Even if it’s Daryl Edwards and Souley Boum carrying the weight for the backcourt, the Miners need some of their guard play to improve on this road swing in order to have a chance at winning these games.
We saw the likes of Deon Stroud replace Kaden Archie in the starting lineup last week, which was interesting to see the freshman play in a starting role. The hope is that Archie will either provide valuable minutes off the bench and could prove to be a guy that eventually regains his starting spot.
Can UTEP at least split the road series?
The Miners have proven they can win at home at any given night but traveling for this team has been difficult.
They’ve only won two games away from Don Haskins Center, one of which came against Rice and the other one came in the Diamond Head Classic against Ball State on a neutral court.
The Miners are 1-7 on the road this season. They haven’t traveled well all year and it seems like as Conference USA continues, their road struggles become more evident than ever. This week, they will take on a trending Charlotte team and an Old Dominion team, who still features proven winners.
Even though Charlotte (12-9, 6-4 C-USA) fell last week at LA Tech, 72-59, and were upset at Southern Miss (74-68 OT), they are in the top-5 of Conference USA and have been one of the more feel-good stories of this league because of their first-year head coach Ron Sanchez. Old Dominion (9-14, 5-5) started off the season a bit shaky but they still managed to finish .500 in the league.
How does Bryson Williams follow up another Conference USA Player of the Week performance?
UTEP redshirt junior forward Bryson Williams (19.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg) continues to pick up accolades left and right. He joined elite territory when he became just a fourth Miner in history to receive Player of the Week honors three times in a single season. Only Vince Hunter in 2014-15 received four Player of the Week honors. Simply put Williams has been on a tear recently and even though the Miners have not shown much progression on the court, Williams continues to dazzle.
Teams are throwing two—even sometimes three—players against Williams to force him to either miss shots or turn the ball over. The one area where Williams can improve on is his leadership skills, as Terry explained earlier this week. When he’s trapped down low, Williams needs to learn how to dish it off and find the open man once he’s double-teamed. And with a group that is searching for its identity, they need a vocal veteran leader to guide them and Williams can be the guy to do so.
Will we see the UTEP defense step up after taking a step back?
In recent weeks, we’ve seen a decline in the overall production of UTEP‘s defense. That is definitely worrisome considering UTEP is known for its stout defensive game.
Particularly, UTEP's frontcourt defense has really struggled to allow points in the paint in recent games. If the Miners use lockdown defense from the likes of Efe Odigie and if other big man steps up, they will have a good chance of hanging in any game on the road this week.
The second they allow teams to go on long runs and build up double-digit leads, UTEP will crumble. Although the Miners are equipped to come from behind win games and they’ve proven that they can retake leads, UTEP needs to find more of a consistent style of play and locking down defensively will help them do it.
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