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Sacramento State (2-3) at Texas-El Paso (4-4)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 7, 9:05 p.m. (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Don Haskins Center (12,222) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: Sacramento State 1-1, UTEP 3-1. Away Record: Sacramento State 1-2, UTEP 0-1. Neutral Record: Sacramento State 0-0, UTEP 1-2. Conference Record: Sacramento State 0-0, UTEP 0-0. Series Record: First- ever meeting.

GAME NOTES: The Texas-El Paso Miners make their return from the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament on Saturday when they host the Sacramento State Hornets in a non-conference matchup at the Don Haskins Center.

Sacramento State has lost three of its last four games and sits at just 2-3 overall entering play on Saturday. The most recent defeat came at home against UC Irvine as they were run over by the Anteaters in a 79-53 decision. Sacramento State gets a bit of a break next time out as they face a non- Division I foe in William Jessup.

Although UTEP went just 1-2 in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, the Miners certainly gained some valuable experience as they battled with Tennessee and two ranked powers in No. 23 Iowa and No. 6 Kansas. The stumbles during the event dropped the Miners to an even 4-4 on the season, though they are 3-1 at home. That is good news considering this game begins a stretch for the Miners in which they play nine of their next 10 games at home.

On Saturday these teams will be squaring off for the first time ever.

The Hornets hung with UC Irvine in the first half but unraveled in the second half to take the loss. Sacramento State hit just 26.7 percent of their shots from the floor during the final 20 minutes, while recording 11 fewer field goals than the Anteaters.

Finding consistent offensive success has escaped the Hornets this season as they are netting just 63 points per game on 41.6 percent shooting. Those types of numbers don't go particularly well with their defensive efforts as the Hornets are letting teams sink 48.4 percent from the field. The Hornets' offense is predicated on its backcourt with guards Dylan Garrity (14 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Mikh McKinney (13.4 ppg, 3.4 apg) the only double-figure scorers on the roster. The duo combined for 19 points on just 6-of-20 shooting against UC Irvine. Cody Demps (8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) stepped up in the losing effort to score a team-high 16 points.

Even in a loss the Miners did themselves proud against the sixth-ranked Jayhawks. The Miners trailed the whole second half but sliced a 14-point deficit down three in the final seconds before falling just short. The Miners held the Jayhawks to just 39.3 percent shooting in the contest.

Keeping teams from getting hot from the floor has kept the Miners competitive this season. UTEP is clamping down on defense and allowing teams to hit on just 38.6 percent of their field-goal tries. Unfortunately that has led to just a +1.2 scoring margin, not helped by a negative differential on the boards (-4.6). There are not a ton of prolific scorers on the roster for the Miners, who prefer more of a balanced effort. McKenzie Moore (13.6 ppg) and Julian Washburn (10.6 ppg) are the only players averaging double figures, but there are eight players scoring at least seven points per game.

Assuming the Miners can keep up the defensive pressure against a Sacramento State team that already struggles to shoot the ball, they should be able to collect a win by keeping things balanced on offense.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-El Paso 73, Sacramento State 63

12/07 10:38:39 ET