Nebraska (8-3) at Texas-El Paso (5-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, December 23, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Don Haskins Center (12,221) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: Nebraska 6-2, UTEP 5-1. Away Record: Nebraska 1-1, UTEP 0-1. Neutral Record: Nebraska 1-0, UTEP 0-3. Conference Record: Nebraska 0-0, UTEP 0-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Nebraska Cornhuskers will try to win this season's Sun Bowl Invitational as they take on the hosting Texas-El Paso Miners in the championship game on Sunday at the Don Haskins Center.
The Cornhuskers earned their second win in a row on Saturday by defeating Central Michigan, 89-75, to improve to 8-3 on the season. Nebraska has picked up notable wins over Valparaiso (50-48), Tulane (61-57), Wake Forest (79-63), and USC (63-51). Its losses have come to Kent State (74-60), Creighton (64-42), and Oregon (60-38). Coach Tim Miles has done a decent job in his first season at the helm of the program as his Cornhuskers are winning low scoring games with an average of 62 points per game to their opponents 60.4 ppg.
UTEP has completely turned things around since its 1-4 start to the season that consisted of losses to Arizona, Oklahoma, Clemson, and Vanderbilt. The Miners have since won four of five games to climb back to the .500 mark, including Saturday's 83-61 rout of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Coach Tim Floyd delivered the school a big time win on Wednesday by leading his squad to a 91-84 victory over Oregon in an overtime thriller just two days after a tough 62-60 loss to a very talented UNLV team. UTEP also plays at a slower pace to average 63.1 points per contest on with 45.6 percent field goal accuracy. It is allowing 65.1 ppg to its competitors.
This will be the first meeting in history between these schools.
Nebraska came out of the gate hot on Saturday and converted 63 percent of its field goal tries in the first half to take a 43-33 advantage into the intermission. The Cornhuskers drained 14-of-20 free-throw attempts after the break to protect their lead. Dylan Talley scored a team-best 21 points, while David Rivers added 20 points. Ray Gallegos also got into the mix with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field. Talley is averaging a team-high 15 ppg. Brandon Ubel is a big contributor at the forward position with 12.9 points and 6.7 boards per outing. Gallegos is also a factor on the offensive end due to his ability to sink jumpers from beyond the arc.
The Miners lit up the scoreboard in the second half versus the Golden Lions by knocking down 77.3 percent of their field goal attempts including 5-of-6 from beyond the arc to cruise to the 22-point rout. UTEP assisted 21 of its 28 makes from the field in the contest and held a 36-27 edge in the rebounding battle. All five of the Miners' starters scored in double figures with Konner Tucker at the head of the class with 18 points. Julian Washburn contributed a double- double with 16 points and 10 boards. Tucker, who is a graduate transfer from Sam Houston State, has scored 42 points in three games since becoming eligible for action. Washburn (13.6 ppg) and center John Bohannon (12.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg) are valuable to the Miners' offensive gameplan as well.
Although Nebraska is representing one of the best conferences in college basketball, it is not responsible for the Big Ten's great reputation. UTEP showed against UNLV and Oregon that it can compete with top tier programs on its own floor. The Cornhuskers will need to be the first team to stop Tucker this season to defeat the Miners.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-El Paso 68, Nebraska 64
12/23 10:32:35 ET