UTEP vs. Marshall: Three Keys for the Miners Road Trip on Thursday
Four of the final six games for the Miners will take place away from El Paso, and it starts tonight with the first game against Marshall (12-9, 5-3 C-USA), who are undergoing a three-game losing streak.
The Miners (7-12, 2-6 Conference USA) are still winless on the road (0-7) and are hoping for some success on this tough road trip this weekend.
“It’s going to be a very challenging road trip for us,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “At one point going in to last week, Marshall was 5-0 and those guys’ guard play is extremely good. They have four to five different guys on that team who won an NCAA Tournament game a year ago. You can’t put a price tag on that experience those guys got a year ago.”
Here are the keys to tonight's game:
How much of an impact can Paul Thomas make?
After his performance against Charlotte, which included 11 points, seven rebounds and two steals, I'm interested to see how senior forward Paul Thomas will fare in this matchup against the Thundering Herd.
Thomas was the difference maker of the Charlotte game for UTEP, but the question is will he be a liability or a weapon for the Miners on Thursday evening?
What we saw in the Charlotte game is Thomas used better spacing and tenacity to his advantage. He needs to continue to understand when to play high or low post and when to attack the glass for second chance points, which he did effectively against Charlotte.
Thomas could go right back to where he left off in the Old Dominion game, though. He has averaged nearly a pair of turnovers per 20 minutes of action, but left last Saturday's win without a single turnover. That's the biggest thing for Thomas -- take care of the basketball, rebound well and help out in all the small areas for the Miners.
High volume offense vs. slow down defense
Through back-to-back games, the Miners have held their opponents to under 60 points and have held opponents to under 40 percent shooting through seven games this year.
But on the other side, Marshall is among the best scoring teams in the league, ranking second in points per game at 79.2. They are, however, last in scoring defense (82.0 ppg) and are coming off a 50-point loss to Southern Miss last Saturday (101-51).
“Marshall shoots the ball extremely well at home. They’re better at home than they are on the road. They’re 40 percent from three at home,” Terry said. “We know going in, we’re going to have to do a great job with high ends and close outs, and take away some air space from guys we know can make shots. We just really need to defend well. They’re a talented offensive team, so we need to go out there and guard, and get our defense set.”
Hold off Jon Elmore
The Miners did an exceptional job against the former C-USA leading scorer Jon Davis last Saturday, as he finished the first half with just four points, shot 8-for-20 to close out the game and quietly reached 23 points for the 49ers.
UTEP's defense simply knows how to stop opponents' scoring leaders.
They will need to continue that trend against senior guard Jon Elmore of the Thundering Herd, who is averaging C-USA's fourth-best 19.0 points per game. Beyond just Elmore though, the Miners will have to worry about Elmore's counterpart in the Marshall backcourt, senior guard C.J. Burks, who is sixth in C-USA at 17.9 ppg.
Expect Nigel Hawkins and Jordan Lathon to carry most of the load on defending Elmore and Burks. Another key to note: Marshall is among the worst rebounding teams in C-USA. Should Thomas and Efe Odigie dominate the boards, the Miners could stand a good chance on the road tonight.