UTEP’s Basketball Teams Heading in Opposite Directions
We are just 12 days away from 2016 and at this point it is clear that the UTEP men's and women's basketball seasons are heading in opposite directions. Tim Floyd's team just lost their fourth straight game last night at home to their I-10 rival Aggies by 20 points. Not only did the Aggies blow out the Miners on their home floor, but NMSU swept the season series in decisive fashion. This is the same UTEP team that began the season by winning their first six games, and they had an RPI of 9 just three weeks ago. Since then, losses to NMSU, UT Arlington, and Washington State have made even the most optimistic Miners fan think "here we go again."
This program has not been to the NCAA Tournament since Floyd took over the reins of the program more than five years ago. After the loss to the Aggies, the UTEP head coach was at a loss for his team's poor play over the last few weeks.
"Guys who had played extraordinarily well through the first six games, but right now are having a hard time finding their way offensively," Floyd told the media after last night's 73-53 loss. "I’m talking about point blank layups that they can’t get down and wide open shots with their feet set. And you’d like to have more resolve than that. You’d like to be able to fight through that a little better.”
Fortunately for the Miners, they will not have much time to sulk about their four game losing streak. The team plays at home Monday and Tuesday night in the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational. If UTEP is able to defeat Norfolk State, they will await the winner of the Sam Houston State/UC Irvine game. After another tuneup against UT Rio Grande Valley on December 29th, the Miners will host Rice in the C-USA opener on New Year's Day.
The Miners still have every opportunity to turn their season back around and contend for a postseason spot. However, the disappointing guard play and lack of a low post game has killed them during their losing streak. Players like Dominic Artis, Lee Moore, Hooper Vint, and Earvin Morris need to show more mental toughness and fight through their first true slump of the young season.
Meanwhile, the UTEP women just finished their second holiday tournament of the season and split a big two game series in Long Beach, California. Despite a poor shooting performance and a 47-40 loss to host Long Beach State, the Miners came back the next night and dominated UNLV 60-52. The win improved UTEP's record to 9-1 this season, and the team already boasts wins over New Mexico, NMSU, and the Rebels.
It looked like Keitha Adams would also need to search for answers after her team's play against The Beach Friday night. They struggled to execute offensively after a variety of zone defenses from LBSU. However, the team quickly adjusted against an athletic UNLV team that boasts one of the best rebounding clubs in Division 1. The Miners controlled the glass from the game's outset and they were also able to run the floor and convert easy transition baskets, something they lacked the night before.
Coach Adams preaches rebounding and good shots before every game. One of her best players, Chrishauna Parker, has not played in nearly a month and is nursing a small fracture in her left foot. The team has stepped up in her absence, but they need Parker healthy for the start of conference play in a few weeks.
If the Miner women are going to be able to contend for a C-USA championship and a trip back to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in program history, they will need to get better at their decision making. At times, the team turns the ball over much too easily, and they do not take smart shots. However, the team's depth, talent, and coach-ability is strong with this group of young ladies. They do not play again until a home game on December 28th against Eastern New Mexico. Then, the Miners travel to Rice for their first C-USA game also on New Years's Day. Unlike the men's team who will have to do some soul searching, the UTEP women appear poised for another strong run at a conference title.