Miners ready for Texas State on Saturday

Junior+guard+Dominic+Artis+scored+16-points%2C+nine+rebounds+and+eight+assists+against+Loyola+in+the+Miners+season+opener+at+the+Don+Haskins+Center+this+past+Saturday.+

Michaela Roman

Junior guard Dominic Artis scored 16-points, nine rebounds and eight assists against Loyola in the Miners season opener at the Don Haskins Center this past Saturday.

Adrian Broaddus, Staff Reporter

It is the same court, same coach and same arena. However, there are nearly all new faces on the court for the UTEP men’s basketball team. After their first win against NAIA Division I affiliate Loyola, the squad will face Texas State on Saturday, Nov. 21.

The 1-0 Miners will still be without suspended players Earvin Morris, Terry Winn and Christian Romine for the game against the Bobcats Saturday. Also, they will be without Josh McSwiggin, who is battling a knee injury, and Omega Harris, who is out because of academic ineligibility.

However, head coach Tim Floyd has enjoyed watching the new players on the team step up and play some substantial minutes.

“All these freshmen are going to be great players some day,” Floyd said. “I think it is exciting to see the youth that is out there. I’m encouraged from the standpoint that we have a lot of guys that will be integral parts of this team who are not on the floor right now. The potential is good.”

Being a four-year veteran of the team, senior center Hooper Vint also agrees that the addition of the younger players to the mix of the rotation may only help the developing team.

“It’s good that the younger guys play this much in the early games,” Vint explained. “It may be better for our team down the road that they are actually getting to play because someone may go down and now we have guys who have experience, rather than nothing.”

Leading the Miners are newcomers Lee Moore and Dominic Artis, who will be the main component of the offense this season. During their season opener, Moore and Artis combined for 33 points in the Miners’ 47-point victory.

Against Loyola, the Miners jumped out to a lead, creating a 19-0 run in the first half to secure the victory with dominating 96-49 win. The high-scoring game saw the most points scored in a regular season game under Floyd. The transition from the team’s slower tempo offense to the quicker tempo offense was made apparent in this first game.

“We really worked on pushing (the ball) out after a board,” Vint said. “We have guys running – we have (Dominic) running and looking for the ball. When the other guys are out, he is kicking it up. Then we go on the straight screen and roll off the break. It has really sped up our team, it’s good for us.”

The 96 points were the most scored by the Miners in an opener since Nov. 22, 2003, when they hung 109 on Texas Permian Basin. It also marked the most points by UTEP in a regulation game under Floyd.

On the Bobcats’ side, head coach Danny Kaspar enters his third year with Texas State, and is no stranger to winning. In the 1990s, he led Incarnate Word to six NAIA tournament appearances in nine seasons. Now at the Division I level, Kaspar is turning around the program at Texas State. Although the Bobcats finished ninth last season in the Sun Belt, they had six more wins than the previous year.

This season the Bobcats also return seven players to make a fairly seasoned squad, unlike the Miners. Led by preseason All-Sun Belt Conference pick, Emani Gant, the Bobcats bring a veteran squad to the forefront. Gant averaged 12.7 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game last season.

Although Floyd and his team are not familiar with the Texas State program, he remembers Kaspar very well from an early season meeting in his second season with the Miners.

“Danny Kaspar was at Stephen F. Austin and came in here and beat us in a year when we lost 10 seniors,” Floyd said. “We’re in a very similar situation now. This is going to be a very well-coached team. I like the fact that we’re playing a completely different style against a well-coached team.”

The Miners will jump right into the game against the Bobcats without a normal Tuesday game under their belts. The Tuesday game would help to give the inexperienced players more minutes on the court and in a game setting. However, this was all according to plan, Floyd explained, and he intends to give the newcomers experience during practice.

“I don’t mind having another four days of practice,” Floyd said. “We did it this way because of our youth and our number of new players. I’m convinced you get better in practice and we got better (on Saturday) because of practice last week. Now we have four more days to do the same thing. I like that.”

Tip off for the Miners is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Don Haskins Center.

Adrian Broaddus may be reached at [email protected]