Charlotte (9-4) at Texas-El Paso (10-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 9, 9:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Don Haskins Center (12,222) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Charlotte 5-2, UTEP 8-2. Away Record: Charlotte 1-2, UTEP 1-1. Neutral Record: Charlotte 3-0, UTEP 1-2. Conference Record: Charlotte 0-0, UTEP 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Texas-El Paso Miners continue their season-long six-game homestand at the Don Haskins Center on Thursday night when they open up Conference USA action against the Charlotte 49ers.
Charlotte experienced plenty of success in its non-conference schedule, winning nine of 13 matchups, although it has come back down to Earth a bit in recent weeks, going 3-3 in its last six. The 49ers are fresh off a win in their most recent contest, besting North Carolina A&T at home last Saturday, 88-72.
UTEP has also played very well through the first two months of the season, running out to a 10-5 start, including an 8-2 mark on its home floor, but it suffered its most disappointing loss of the season on Saturday by falling to Angelo State in El Paso, 75-70.
The Miners will need to overcome a roster shakedown that occurred earlier in the week, as three players, leading scorer McKenzie Moore (13.1 ppg) among them, were dismissed from the team for their part in a gambling scandal.
As this marks Charlotte's first year in C-USA, the teams have never before squared off on the hardwood.
After playing the first half of its last game to a 40-40 tie, Charlotte pulled away from NC A&T after halftime, ultimately shooting 52.9 percent from the field for the game (including 10-of-19 from 3-point range) en route to the 16- point victory. Pierria Henry led all scorers with 23 points, doing so on 7- of-14 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line, and he also stuffed the stat sheet elsewhere with seven rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks. Willie Clayton and Shawn Lester each netted 13 points, while Mike Thorne, Jr. contributed 12 points and seven boards.
On the season, the 49ers shoot 44.6 percent from the floor on their way to 75.4 ppg, which is 3.1 ppg more than they allow. Lester, despite starting just one game, is the team leader in scoring with 13.8 ppg. Clayton (12.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg) is a nightly double-double threat and shoots a lofty 62.2 percent from the field. Henry (11.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 6.2 apg, 2.7 spg) is one of the conference's best all-around performers, while Terrence Williams and Thorne, Jr. each pour in 10.5 ppg to round out the balanced attack.
UTEP fell flat against Division II Angelo State in its most recent contest, as it fell behind by as many as 17 in the humiliating home loss. Despite shooting an impressive 53.5 percent from the field and 20-of-26 from the foul line, it attempted 16 fewer field goals than its opposition and lost the turnover battle, 15-9. Vince Hunter poured in 21 points on 6-of-10 from the field and 9-of-10 from the stripe, while Cedrick Lang and C.J. Cooper netted 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Miners' scoring attack, which puts up 70.1 ppg on nearly 45 percent shooting, will certainly take a hit the rest of the way with the absence of Moore, and they'll likely need to rely even more heavily on a stout scoring defense (65.2 ppg) to win games. Julian Washburn (11.2 ppg) and Hunter (10.5 ppg, 6.7 ppg) are the only remaining double-digit scorers, although John Bohannon (9.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg) is right on the cusp and is a huge factor on the defensive end of the floor with a team-high 23 blocks.
The Miners showed in their latest game that, even on their home floor, they are clearly a weaker team without Moore in the lineup. Charlotte possesses a much bigger danger to UTEP than did Angelo State, so figure for the 49ers to get off to a 1-0 start in league play.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Charlotte 71, Texas-El Paso 64
01/09 10:32:15 ET