Houston (15-10) at Texas-El Paso (14-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 27, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Don Haskins Center (12,000) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: Houston 11-4, UTEP 12-2. Away Record: Houston 4-6, UTEP 2-7. Neutral Record: Houston 0-0, UTEP 0-3. Conference Record: Houston 4-8, UTEP 7-5. Series Record: Texas-El Paso leads, 14-10.
GAME NOTES: The Texas-El Paso Miners return home to the Don Haskins Center hoping to bounce back as they host the Houston Cougars for a Conference USA tilt.
Houston is aiming for the season series sweep of the Miners after coasting to a 79-61 rout of UTEP at home on Feb. 13. TaShawn Thomas was sensational in the first matchup, tallying 24 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists to pace the Cougars. Julian Washburn led UTEP with 17 points. The Miners had won four of the previous five meetings and hold a 14-10 all-time series edge.
Dickey Nutt's Cougars began a three-game road swing after defeating the Miners but did not find the same success outside of the Lone Star State. First they were dealt a 101-92 triple overtime loss at Tulsa before being handed an 81-74 setback by the Tigers at Memphis. The back-to-back losses dropped Houston to a 15-10 overall record which includes an impressive 4-8 mark versus league rivals. Joseph Young is leading the team in scoring with 17.5 ppg, while Thomas is close behind with a near double-double average of 17 points and 9.7 rebounds per tilt.
Young poured in 22 points at FedExForum in Houston's last appearance, but the Cougars let Memphis connect on 53.6 percent of its field goal tries and convert 18-of-25 at the charity stripe to hold them off. Danuel House added 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor, while Houston drained 46.6 percent of its field-goal tries. Memphis dominated the boards 40-25, including 13 offensive rebounds leading to 18 second-chance points. Nutt's unit is leading the C-USA offensively with an average of 77.8 ppg and is second in the conference in three-point efficiency (.370) also. However, it is last in the league defensively with an allowed average of 72.7 ppg.
Tim Floyd's Miners participated in the BracketBuster event over the weekend but came up short and fell, 55-51, to New Mexico State. The loss was the second in a row and dropped UTEP to a 14-12 overall standing. Washburn is pacing the team with 11.7 ppg while John Bohannon adds 10.6 points and a team- leading 6.0 boards per tilt. Konner Tucker reached double figures in three consecutive games for the Miners before being held to 13 total points on 5- of-16 shooting from the field over his past two outings.
UTEP has the second lowest scoring defense (61.1) among C-USA schools, but its scoring offense is also the second lowest in the league at 62.9 ppg. The Miners' focus on defense was apparent in its bout with NMSU over the weekend as they held the Aggies to 22.7 percent shooting from the field in the opening 20 minutes. UTEP had very little offensive production of its own and went into halftime trailing, 17-14. It produced a 14-4 run to take a nine-point lead in the second stanza before NMSU finished the game strong, responding with a 16-3 run over the final six minutes to secure the victory.
The pace of this game will decide the tempo. Houston will not be able to get the brooms out if UTEP can make it a defensive bout, but Thomas had no trouble producing offensively versus the Miners earlier this month. However, UTEP is much better on its own floor with only two losses in 14 games. The Cougars will need to be lucky to light up the scoreboard in the Don Haskins Center.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-El Paso 67, Houston 65
02/27 10:33:56 ET