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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 15, 9:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Don Haskins Center (12,000) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: FIU 8-4, UTEP 12-4. Away Record: FIU 4-6, UTEP 5-1. Neutral Record: FIU 1-2, UTEP 1-2. Conference Record: FIU 5-5, UTEP 8-2. Series Record: Texas-El Paso leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The Texas-El Paso Miners look to keep pace in the wide open race for the Conference USA crown as they host the FIU Panthers at the Don Haskins Center on Saturday.
FIU began its trip to the Lone Star State with an 80-72 victory at Texas-San Antonio on Thursday. The Panthers have won two of their last three games to improve to a 13-12 overall record, including a 5-5 mark in C-USA games. Although FIU is at the .500 mark in the league standings, their triumph over the Roadrunners was just their second C-USA road win in five tries. Coach Anthony Evans's team is netting 68.6 ppg on 45.1 percent shooting from the field on the campaign. They are ranked third in the conference in rebounding margin with an average of 3.2 more boards per game.
Coach Tim Floyd's Miners are coming off of a heartbreaking, 71-69, home loss to Florida Atlantic that snapped their eight-game losing streak. UTEP's shortcoming dropped it to an 8-2 C-USA record and into a four-way tie for first place with Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee. The Miners overcame a 13-point halftime deficit and held a one-point lead over FAU before Marquan Botley knocked down a shot from beyond the arc with only three seconds remaining to lift the Owls to the decision. UTEP lost despite outscoring FAU, 36-20, in the paint.
This will be just the third meeting in history between FIU and UTEP on the hardwood. The Miners won both previous encounters with the most recent matching taking place on Jan. 1, 2000 in Miami.
Evans used only eight of his players in San Antonio and the decision to use a short bench clearly worked as seven different Panthers scored seven points or more, including five in double figures. Rakeem Buckles made a major impact as he recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Dennis Mavin posted a team-high 16 points. FIU also received solid contributions from Tymell Murphy (13 points), Dominique Williams (11) and Cody Mann (10). Murphy has been sensational throughout the 2013-14 campaign en route to a team-high 16.3 ppg, which he accompanies with 7.6 rpg and 1.5 blocks per tilt. Buckles is near a double-double average with 13.6 ppg and nine rpg, while Mavin (12.2 ppg) is the top scoring option out of the backcourt.
The Miners' usual key contributors did their part in their recent outing versus FAU. Vince Hunter netted 18 points to lead the way, while John Bohannon and Julian Washburn both chipped in 16 points with the latter also accounting for nine rebounds. C.J. Cooper had 15 points 5-of-7 efficiency from the floor. Washburn posts a team-high 13.1 ppg and is connecting on 37 percent of his tries from beyond the arc. Hunter (12.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Bohannon (11.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.7 bpg) have both been reliable low post options. Cooper is chiming in with 9.3 ppg although he is converting only 36.7 percent of his shots from the field.
UTEP may have underestimated FAU in its last outing, but it has no reason to overlook the Panthers after the shocking result against the Owls. FIU has progressed nicely throughout the first season of the Evans era and will give the Miners a challenge. UTEP's depth at forward is rare, especially for a mid- major program, and gives it an advantage up front in most C-USA games.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-El Paso 71, FIU 65
02/15 10:19:53 ET
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