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Miners host conference favorites Louisiana Tech tonight

Michaela Roman

In the preseason, UTEP men’s basketball was chosen to finish second in Conference USA only behind Louisiana Tech. Tonight the Miners host the Bulldogs on the floor of the Don Haskins Center. Both teams have begun conference play undefeated and each has some of the best players in the league on their rosters.

Half of the ten players chosen by the coaches to the preseason all-conference team are either a Miner or a Bulldog. Senior guard Raheem Appleby, junior guard Alex Hamilton and senior guard Kenneth Smith make Louisiana Tech’s backcourt one of the most dangerous in all of college basketball. All three were picked to the preseason all-conference team and all three players are playing well.

Appleby scored 30 points in Tech’s conference opening victory over Southern Miss and Hamilton is averaging 15.4 ppg. Smith, the reigning C-USA Defensive Player of the Year and a member of last year’s all-conference team, leads Conference USA this season in assists, averaging over 7 per game, in assist to turnover ratio, with 2.8, and is second in steals with just over 2 per game.

For the Miners both senior guard Julian Washburn and sophomore forward Vince Hunter were in the preseason all-conference team. Hunter is the reigning C-USA Freshman of the Year and has already been tabbed the conference’s player of the week four times this season. Tech’s Hamilton is the only other player to be named more than once with two. Hunter is averaging a double-double, leading the team in scoring (16.77 ppg) and rebounding (10.3 ppg).

Washburn has been picked to the conference all-defensive team for the past two seasons and is now one of the top ten scorers in school history. He ranks 10th with 1,323 and is just four points behind Luster Goodwin who ranks ninth.

Louisiana Tech, reigning regular season co-champion, is 10-4 on the season and started conference play on the road against Southern Miss. Their win improved their road record to 3-4. Their losses came at the hands of Temple (82-75), Louisiana (94-86), Syracuse (71-69) and N.C. State (73-65).

“They have just done a great, great job,” said Miner head coach Tim Floyd. “They are a team that makes it difficult for you to play.  They almost make you play lefthanded.”

The Miners, also 10-4, have lost just once this season when playing at the Don Haskins Center. The only loss came to #7 Arizona, who was then ranked #3. Coach Floyd’s men began conference play with two wins on the road against Rice and North Texas, but the team’s play at home is an emphasis this year.

“You have to send a message that you’re going to defend at home,” Floyd said.  “I don’t know that we necessarily did that last year in losing seven home games.”

UTEP is 27-10 at home in Conference USA games under Floyd, with seven of those 10 losses coming last season.

Against Louisiana Tech, the Miners hold the edge in the series with nine wins to the Bulldog’s seven. In El Paso, the teams have met eight different times and Tech has one just once. That lone win came in the early 2000’s when both teams were still members of the WAC. Last season the Bulldog’s visited El Paso and left with a loss. Hunter scored his career high 26 points that night to lead the Miners to a 89-79 win. Washburn and then junior guard C.J. Cooper also had a great night playing significant roles in what was UTEP’s 500th win at the Don. Washburn scored 21 with four assists and Cooper had 17 points, five assist and four steals.

With the most important part of the season having already kicked off, every win becomes crucial for every team’s possibilities come March. The pressure to win at home can be even greater when looking to increase your probability at post season play.

“Now the pressure sets in, because if you lose at home you lose a point,” Floyd said.  “We just need to try to win.  I don’t care if it’s by one point at the buzzer.”

So far this season UTEP has done a good job at starting to make the Don Haskins Center a place teams are weary of visiting once again and that road continues tonight against a very, very good team.


Luis Gonzalez may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Michaela Roman
Michaela Roman, Editor-in-Chief
Michaela is a Senior Digital Media Production major at The University of Texas at El Paso. As the Editor-in-Chief, and former Photo Editor of The Prospector, she has learned to stay organized, manage a staff of writers and photographers, meet deadlines, cover events and network with others. She also has freelance experience and a personal photography business. Michaela aspires to work as an editor for a large media outlet and one day go to graduate school to teach photojournalism.
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Miners host conference favorites Louisiana Tech tonight