UTEP vs. Western Kentucky: Three Final Questions Before Tipoff
UTEP (13-12, 4-8 Conference USA) hopes to put an end to their three-game losing streak as they host Western Kentucky (16-8, 9-3 C-USA) Thursday night at the Don Haskins Center.
You can listen in for the game's full-game broadcast on 600 ESPN El Paso and make sure to tune in afterward for MinerTalk presented by Palo Verde Homes.
Three final questions before tipoff:
How does UTEP stop scoring in the paint?
One of the most recent weaknesses for the Miners has been their inability to defend inside the paint. Specifically, UTEP has been largely ineffective in stopping opponents' big men and they continue to allow teams to drive inside the post, scoring at will. They allowed 30 or more points in the paint during their three-game losing streak. They’ve also been foul-prone in the paint, seeing players like Bryson Williams and Eric Villa fall into foul trouble through the past three losses.
Western Kentucky has a fierce perimeter game that they bring to the table. If UTEP can eliminate the 3-point shot while still protecting the interior, they have a good chance of getting back to their strong defensive ways.
How will Daryl Edwards perform through his final seven college games?
As a graduate transfer from LSU, Daryl Edwards is approaching his last seven games as a Miner. When asked if Edwards has shown a sense of urgency through his last stretch of his collegiate career, head coach Rodney Terry says that he's seen the Fresno native step up through the past couple weeks. Edwards is coming off a back-to-back dominant performance on the offensive side, where he scored 24 points against Charlotte and 16 against Old Dominion—both team-highs.
But the big question with Edwards is can he keep this up? Edwards has shown at times he can get lost in the shuffle offensively, while other teams have abilities to shut him down and force him to make bad decisions in the backcourt. Often, he’s turnover-prone and sometimes cold from beyond the arch.
But there are games where Edwards is easily the most electric scorer from the Miners and his ability to shoot the 3-point ball is really important to this team's offense. Defensively, it's not even close. Edwards is the best defender on this squad.
UTEP is at the point where they don’t just hope for a secondary scorer. They have become dependent on having another option who helps out in secondary scoring stretches to complement Williams' 18-plus points per game.
It has to be Edwards. While Souley Boum still provides a nice scoring spark in the backcourt, and while Williams continues to dazzle in his scoring numbers, they need a guy like Edwards who can be the best guard on the floor and also score in bunches.
These final games of his college career will be interesting to watch.
With expectations reset, can UTEP get their first quality win in over a month?
The expectations for UTEP by now have been reset. What was first thought of as a fantastic, promising season from an 8-1 start has now turned into an obvious longer project that this program will see.
Head coach Rodney Terry has often used the phrases "growing pains" when describing his team's performance in the past couple of weeks. Maybe it’s the players? Maybe it’s adjustments that—or don’t happen—during games? Or maybe it’s just a little bit of everything.
The bottom line, UTEP really needs a significant win in order to make everyone settle their displeasures on this team. They desperately need a win for confidence measures.
A win against Western Kentucky, who is a top-3 team in Conference USA, would prove to be very beneficial to the program. It would also give the Miners much-needed momentum heading into their key home game on Saturday against Marshall. If there is some way that UTEP could win this home series—or at minimum, split the series—it would bode well for them.