Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-9) at Texas-El Paso (4-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 22, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Don Haskins Center (12,222) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: Arkansas-Pine Bluff 0-0, UTEP 4-1. Away Record: Arkansas-Pine Bluff 0-7, UTEP 0-1. Neutral Record: Arkansas-Pine Bluff 1-2, UTEP 0-3. Conference Record: Arkansas-Pine Bluff 0-0, UTEP 0-0. Series Record: UTEP leads , 8-0.
GAMES NOTES: As part of the 51st Sun Bowl Invitational, the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions will go up against the Texas-El Paso Miners at the Don Haskins Center on Saturday.
It has been a dismal start to the year for Arkansas-Pine Bluff which has lost nine of its 10 games. The team's only win came during the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii when the Golden Lions topped Maryland-Eastern Shore 62-52. Since then the Golden Lions have lost six straight games, including a 76-46 rout on the road to Akron.
UTEP is coming off a triple-overtime marathon against Oregon on Wednesday night when the Miners were able to pull out a surprising 91-84 victory. UTEP has now won three of its last four contests and moved to 4-5 overall this season. The team's five losses have come against some heavy competition, including nationally-ranked Arizona and UNLV squads.
The winner of this game will face the victor of Central Michigan and Nebraska. The losers will play in the consolation game. Both games will take place on Sunday.
In eight previous meetings, UTEP has come out on top each time. That includes a 79-58 victory during last season's Sun Bowl Invitational. The Miners have won by at least 14 points in every matchup.
Nothing seemed to fall for Arkansas-Pine Bluff against Akron. The Golden Lions connected on only 29.1 percent of their shots from the field including a 2- of-7 effort from beyond the arc. That was detrimental to the team's efforts as the Golden Lions were outscored by a 33-6 margin from beyond the arc. Arkansas-Pine Bluff was also beat up on the inside with a 50-24 disadvantage on the glass.
Offensive efficiency has not been something Arkansas-Pine Bluff has excelled at this season. The Golden Lions are the third lowest scoring team in the country (51.7 ppg). Arkansas Pine-Bluff has also managed to connect on just 34.7 percent of its shots from the field which is also better than just two other teams nationally. The Golden Lions also suffer from a -11.0 margin on the boards. The already weak scoring took another hit at the end of November when Terrell Kennedy (11.4 ppg) injured his foot. Kennedy is still listed as out and has missed five straight games. DaVon Haynes (12.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is both the top scorer and rebounder, while Lazabian Jackson (11.1 ppg) has also scored in double figures.
Despite leading by as many as nine points against Oregon, UTEP would need triple overtime to vanquish the Ducks. John Bohannon had a chance in the final seconds of regulation to win the game but hit just 1-of-2 free throws with three seconds remaining. Neither team was able to earn much separation until the third extra sessions when the Miners scored 16 points and hit 6-of-6 attempts from the charity stripe to pull out the win. Julian Washburn played all but one minute in the game and scored a game-high 23 points.
The Miners have also struggled some on offense though not nearly as much as the Golden Lions. UTEP is putting in just 60.9 points per game, which ranks 11th in Conference USA. The Miners shoot at a 43.9 percent clip and are the worst rebounding team (28.3 pg) in the conference as well. Washburn (13.3 ppg) has been scoring well in recent weeks with two games of at least 20 points and double-figure totals in each of the last four games. Bohannon (12.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) also scores in double figures by shooting at a 60.5 percent clip. Konner Tucker (12.0 ppg) has added scoring punch off the bench after missing the first seven games of the year. Jacques Streeter (7.8 ppg) is the only other player on the squad scoring more than seven points per game.
The Miners were able to hang tough and pull off a win against a talented Oregon squad at home on Wednesday. UTEP won't have nearly as much trouble against an Arkansas-Pine Bluff squad that has failed to put up much of a fight this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-El Paso 78, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 50
12/22 10:35:30 ET