UTEP vs. UTSA: 3 Keys For the Miners Quick Turnaround Against UTSA
UTEP will have a quick turnaround fresh off their loss to UTSA (75-60) and will tip-off against the Roadrunners (7-7, 1-0 C-USA) on Saturday at the Don Haskins Center at 7 p.m.
Hot off their Thursday night victory over the Miners (5-7, 0-1 C-USA), the Roadrunners have won four straight games over the Miners and have won seven of their last nine games this season.
“This time of year, it gets down to who’s going to execute and who will outcompete who,” head coach Rodney Terry said in a release. “We lost every 50-50 ball [last night]. [UTSA] beat us in every 50-50 ball, they kicked us on the glass and they outcompeted us. That’s hard for me to stand and stomach in terms of being outcompeted. You can lose a certain way, but you can’t lose when you get outcompeted.”
“We need all the support we can get,” Terry said. “Again, it’s a fragile group in terms of when things are going great, it’s easy to feel good. But again, it’s growing pains. Guys have to grow and continue to get better. Fight through adversity and learn what it takes to be successful this time of year.”
Here are three keys for the Miners on Saturday night:
Game plan with or without Jordan Lathon
Last night's game surprised a lot of fans—and probably UTSA—when freshman starting point guard Jordan Lathon was ruled out of the game due to a hamstring injury he suffered during practice. He had been averaging 9.3 points per game, leads the team in assists per game (three) and steals per game (1.1).
While it must have been a sudden injury to the team's game plan on Thursday, it is now fresh in the staff's minds and Terry will be able to gameplan with or without Lathon come Saturday.
If Lathon is back to play, expect the freshman guard to come off the bench for the Miners, similar to how Evan Gilyard subbed in during his leg injury in the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational.
Without Lathon, though, UTEP needs to find a way to utilize the most out of their seven-man rotation. It will be a thin bench to dip in, but I think there needs to be more intensity to start, which would mean it could be Gilyard, Kobe Magee, Nigel Hawkins, Paul Thomas and Efe Odigie to start.
Lockdown on UTSA's two studs
The Roadrunners were led by guard Keaton Wallace's 23 points in UTEP's first matchup on Thursday, but UTSA sophomore guard Jhivvan Jackson should be the one the Miners need to key on. Jackson, who missed the team's first three games, was stunted by UTEP's defense and put up a quiet 13 points. However, Jackson is C-USA's second-leading scorer at 20.2 points per game and could turn it on at his own will.
Wallace's 23 points put him at sixth-best in C-USA for scoring.
UTSA as a team ranks sixth in C-USA for scoring (74.9 ppg), but 10th in field goal percentage (.417).
So in order for the Miners to find success defensively, they need to lockdown both Wallace and Jackson.
Limit turnovers and win the rebounding margin
After two steps forward against Wyoming, the Miners took two big steps back in terms of the turnover margin and rebounds versus UTSA. It's hard for any team to lose in both those categories and still win the game.
UTEP totaled 18 turnovers on Thursday against the Roadrunners and were out-rebounded 43-38. Although Odigie, Gilyard and Hawkins scored in double figures against UTSA, all three combined for 11 turnovers on Thursday, which added to the jumble of problems.
If the Miners can beat the Roadrunners on the glass and limit turnovers, it will allow them to create more opportunities to win on Saturday.