UTEP vs. UTSA: Things You Should Know Before Tipoff
Another UTEP men’s basketball series is upon us, as the Miners prepare for their one and only home-and-home series of the season with UTSA.
First, they will play Thursday’s game in San Antonio (5 p.m. MT). Saturday’s contest will see the two teams return to the Haskins Center (7 p.m. MT).
Who: UTEP (7-7, 3-5 C-USA) at UTSA (7-8, 3-5)
When: Thursday, 5 p.m. MT
Where: Convocation Center, San Antonio
Listen: 600 ESPN El Paso (MinerTalk following the game)
Here are a few things you should know before tipoff:
The pace of play could be key
The Miners have talked about the pace of play being one of their strong parts, especially when they are able to score effectively in transition. UTEP has a 6-1 record this year when they score 10+ fast break points.
However, the Miners are actually getting beat in transition by their opponents this year. Teams are outscoring the Miners 140-138 in fast break points this year. Over three of the last four games, UTEP has seen opponents score in double figures for fast break points.
UTEP is 67.7 in adjusted tempo and averages a 17.5-second average possession length, according to KenPom.
Fortunately for Rodney Terry’s bunch, they aren’t reckless in transition, nor careless with the ball for that matter. The Miners rank second in C-USA and 19th in NCAA for the fewest turnovers per game (10.5), including an average of 9.3 turnovers per contest over the last six games. Point guard Jamal Bieniemy is still one of the top assist/turnover ratio players in the conference, ranking second in the league, 33rd nationally (2.7).
UTEP needs scoring consistency from someone outside of Boum
Junior guard Souley Boum has led the team in scoring through 12 of the 14 games that UTEP has played thus far. He’s sixth in C-USA for scoring (17.1 ppg) and fourth in 3-pointers made per game (2.1). Boum went from being a sixth man at the start of his UTEP career, to a routine starter by the end of last season, to now a top-10 scorer in the conference.
Yet, we’ve seen up-and-down scoring performances from guys like Bryson Williams and Bieniemy. Plus, they need some extra help from supporting cast members like Keonte Kennedy, Tydus Verhoeven, Christian Agnew and Kristian Sjolund. Both Williams (15.3 ppg) and Bieniemy (10.3 ppg) average double figures scoring per game, but at times when one is scoring effectively, the other might struggle to score.
The Miners continue to be one of the worst offenses in C-USA. They average 72 points per game (10th in C-USA) and hold a team field goal percentage of .428 (12th). Fans get frustrated at their 23 3-point field goal attempts per game, which the team hits at only a 32.9% clip.
One of the major factors for the squad trying to get wins under their belt is by simply scoring more points. They are still undefeated (7-0) when scoring 70-plus in a game. Conversely, they’re winless (0-7) when they don’t reach the 70 point mark.
Miners sit tied for last in the C-USA West
We have seen three versions of the Miners this year: (1) the dominant, fiery Miners that can beat anyone on a given night; (2) the sluggish, inconsistent bunch that can potentially be blown out; and (3) the up-and-down group that falls in the final minutes.
What we haven’t seen is UTEP win a tight game in the final minutes. All seven of their wins average a +13 point margin of victory. Yet, they’ve lost close games that came down to the final minutes, such as their losses against Arizona (69-61), Southern Miss (74-66, OT), Rice (71-68) and North Texas (74-65). Winning tight games is something that this team has longed for under the Terry era.
So here we are. January 28th and the Miners are tied for last place in the C-USA West Division—unfortunately, familiar territory for the team. UTSA is also in the bottom part of the league. However, the Roadrunners are coming off a nice series sweep against Southern Miss.
UTSA has won six of the last seven meetings against UTEP. Last year saw a series split between the two squads, seeing the Miners rally from 24-points down to take a 80-77 overtime win, and then watching the Roadrunners dominate at home, 86-70.