The UTEP men's basketball season officially gets underway on Monday night November 7th in Austin against the University of Texas. However, the Miners traveled to Odessa Saturday for their first "secret" scrimmage of the 2022-23 college basketball season. What is even more significant about the game that is closed to both fans and media is that UTEP's opponent was Tarleton State, who is coached by Billy Gillispie.

It is hard to believe that Gillispie first arrived in El Paso 20 years ago to coach the Miners. At that time, he was an assistant to Bill Self at Illinois but he quickly left a big impression on the UTEP fan base. It helps when you turn a six win team your first season into a 24-win team and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. That gave Billy overnight national fame and he parlayed his UTEP success into head coaching jobs at Texas A&M and Kentucky. After a short stint at Texas Tech and five years at Ranger College, Gillispie took over in 2020 at Tarleton State.

UTEP Athletics.
UTEP Athletics.

Meanwhile, the Miners have a roster that does not resemble the team that Joe Golding coached last season. The only returning players are Jamari Sibley, Ze'Rik Onyema, and Kevin Kalu. Coach Golding lost most of his team from last season to the transfer portal, and he replaced them with five players from the portal, four juco additions, one true freshman, and a pair of walk-ons.

As for the scrimmage with Tarleton State, a source told me that it was a hard-fought defensive battle that was extremely physical and almost resembled a football game. Both teams played extremely hard, which is not surprising considering the coaching philosophies of Joe Golding and Billy Gillispie. Since defense was a strong point for UTEP and Tarleton, they struggled to score. Another source said that the scrimmage was exactly what a game on October 22nd should be like.

Up next for UTEP is a trip to Lubbock and their final secret scrimmage against Texas Tech on Saturday. That will give Coach Golding plenty of things to work on as he prepares for Chris Beard and the Longhorns November 7th.

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