Crucial road trip for Miners


Michaela Roman

Junior point guard C.J. Cooper has scored more than 10 points per game in eight of the last nine Miners games.

Luis Barrio, Staff Reporter

The Miners who are currently on a three-way tie in the lead in Conference USA, will have two crucial road games that could determine their fate   come selection sunday on March 16.

Conference USA may have a chance to send two schools to the NCAA Tournament. At the moment, it seems UTEP may only have a chance to get into the tournament by winning its conference tournament that takes place March 11-15 in El Paso.

The Miners are coming off a stumble reciprocated by a victory in last week’s two-game home stand. They lost to Florida Atlantic on Feb. 13 and went on to defeat Florida International two days later. The Miners have won 14 of their las 16 games.

“We are going to play two teams that have always given us issues,” head coach Tim Floyd said. “We’ll play against a bunch of man (defense) one night and a bunch of zone the next night. So it’s an important week of practice for us.”

A tough two-game road challenge comes UTEP’s way when they face the Tulane Green Wave on Feb. 20 followed by an interesting match-up atop conference standings against the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles on Feb. 22.

Tulane stands at 14-12 overall and 6-5 in conference play. The Green Wave’s most recent victory came on the road over Alabama-Birmingham 86-80.

Leading the Green Wave there are two guards. Sophomore Louis Dabney is their leading scorer averaging 16.7 points and freshman Jonathan Starks is producing 14.7 points and 4 assists per game.

Two days later the Miners will face the Golden Eagles who are one game behind the leaders, UTEP, Middle Tennessee State and Louisiana Tech in the conference standings.

This team has ESPN College Basketball analyst, Jay Bilas, ranking them as the No. 49 team in the country. They force many turnovers and play a lot of defense. They initiate their full-court press to force most of their turnovers.

“We have two big road games coming up. If we want to win on the road we’re going to have to play together,” said junior forward Cedrick Lang.

The Golden Eagles have in senior guards Neil Watson and Michael Craig their two most explosive players averaging 12 points per game.

UTEP and Southern Mississippi have similar characteristics in terms of their defensive identity.

The Golden Eagles have not lost a game at home this season. They have won five-straight home conference games up to this point. UTEP has proved very resilient this season when facing conference foes on the road. They have not lost a conference road game all season (4-0) and are 5-1 on road games for the entire season.

The winner of UTEP versus Southern Miss can be crucial for the Miners’ hopes of clinching a regular season title and can have an impact on how the teams are seeded in the conference tournament.

Luis Barrio may be reached at [email protected]