UTEP vs. UAB Preview: Miners Return Home for Challenging C-USA Stretch
The UTEP men’s basketball team (16-11, 9-6) enters a three-game home stretch to close out the regular season with one of C-USA’s best in UAB coming to town on Saturday.
The Miners return to the Haskins Center for the first time since losing to Marshall on Super Bowl Sunday (88-79). Meanwhile, UAB is vying for its first road sweep of the season after defeating UTSA on Thursday, 68-56.
Listen to all the action on 600 ESPN El Paso starting at 6:30 pm with Voice of the Miners Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen calling the action. MinerTalk will follow the broadcast, presented by the Oscar Arrieta Agency.
Here are some final notes heading into the weekend:
What mental state is UTEP in right now?
It was a peculiar week for the Miners. They are coming off a road sweep against LA Tech and Southern Miss last weekend, while falling to Middle Tennessee most recently, 77-59. That’s the normal, on-court stuff.
Off the court, the team dealt with the news earlier this week of backup point guard Cam Clardy being arrested due to marijuana and weapons charges, first reported by KTSM. Sure, the squad left town last week without Clardy and continues to practice while he’s away from the team. However, the news was first released to the public this week.
For a team that has faced a ton of adversity this year—from COVID-19 complications, to injuries, to a stomach bug, and now this—the Miners will be tasked to get through this off-the-court distraction. Let’s see how they respond Saturday against UAB.
Will Keonte Kennedy be back?
Guard Keonte Kennedy was seen at practice on Thursday for the first time since breaking his foot in a December loss to Bradley. Though he was a bit limited during 5-on-5 workouts, head coach Joe Golding hinted at his possible return this weekend.
If you asked me earlier this week, I would’ve guessed Kennedy rests this week and plays against Rice. However, as the week has gone on, I think it’s a real possibility for Kennedy to make his return this weekend against the Blazers.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
One must factor in his lack of conditioning over the past few months. Kennedy is trying to work himself back into shape and though he feels better, he will need to play his way back to his elite form.
Remember, Kennedy was having a career season before missing all 15 C-USA games. He averaged 13.3 pints, 5.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game for the Miners before being sidelined.
I’m rooting for the Texas native to have a strong bounce-back close to the season. My tag team partner Sal Montes called him the best player on UTEP before he suffered the broken foot. When you watch the way he dominated in December, it’s hard to argue against Sal’s claim.
Andy Kennedy has never lost to UTEP
The Blazers come into the Haskins Center having won the last six matchups against the Miners. In fact, head coach Andy Kennedy hasn't lost to UTEP (4-0) through his four seasons at the helm. UAB leads the all-time series 15-9, while the Miners lead the series at home, 7-3.
Earlier this year, UAB dominated UTEP, 75-62, in the C-USA opener where Golding was ejected early in the game.
UAB (21-7, 11-4 C-USA) is one of the best teams across C-USA. They've won 17 games by double digits and they are the only team in the league to beat first-place North Texas (69-63, Jan. 6). Their high-powered offense averages 80.1 points per game (1st in C-USA, 13th in NCAA). The Miners will need to lock down defensively, especially against Jordan Walker (19.0 ppg), Quan Jackson (11.8 ppg) and KJ Buffen (10.6 ppg).
Defensively, UAB is the best across C-USA in turnover margin (+6.1), steals per game (10.2) and turnovers forced (16.9)