Men’s team prepares for Florida Atlantic

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Men’s team prepares for Florida Atlantic

UTEP men's basketball team takes on Florida Atlantic on Thursday, Jan. 21 at the Don Haskins Center.

UTEP men's basketball team takes on Florida Atlantic on Thursday, Jan. 21 at the Don Haskins Center.

Michaela Roman

UTEP men's basketball team takes on Florida Atlantic on Thursday, Jan. 21 at the Don Haskins Center.

Michaela Roman

Michaela Roman

UTEP men's basketball team takes on Florida Atlantic on Thursday, Jan. 21 at the Don Haskins Center.

Adrian Broaddus, Sports Editor

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The UTEP men’s basketball team returns home this week after losing three in a row to face Florida Atlantic at 7:05 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 21 at the Don Haskins Center.

The Miners (10-8, 2-3 Conference USA) are coming off a three-game on-the-road-losing streak. They fell to Middle Tennessee (78-72), UAB (87-80) and UTSA (71-67). They have only posted four wins in the last 10 games.

Head coach Tim Floyd and his troops have not yet won on the road this season (0-5). The odds were in their favor going into the UTSA game, in which the Roadrunners entered the game with only three wins. But after a late run by UTSA, the Miners fell short yet again on the road.

“We played like a team that had not won on the road,” said Floyd after the four-point loss to the Roadrunners.  “We didn’t play with much confidence down the stretch.”

The Miners led by as much as 15 points with 14:48 left in the game, but the Roadrunners rallied and outscored the Miners 34-15 for the rest of the game. During the final 15 minutes of the game, the Miners plummeted on scoring from the floor, only making four of 18 final attempts.

One of the main difficulties this season for UTEP has been rebounding. Against UTSA they could not establish any sort of dominance on the boards, as they were outrebounded 43-34 for the game and 25-15 in the second half.

“We don’t offensive rebound it very well,” Floyd said. “We had two offensive boards for the game.”

Now Floyd and his team enter a homestead. They will play four of their next six games at home.

Forward Terry Winn has emerged to be a self-defying scorer in the past three games. During the road stretch, Winn put up 31 total points, including a 16-point and 12 rebound double-double against Middle Tennessee. Despite leaving the game against UAB due to a rolled ankle, Winn was a definite factor against Middle Tennessee and UTSA. Against the Blue Raiders, he was second overall in scoring, and against the Roadrunners, he and Hooper Vint led the team with 12 points each.

During the past three games, UTEP has struggled in the backcourt, and more specifically in guard play. While Lee Moore and Earvin Morris continue to rake in buckets for the team, Dominic Artis and Omega Harris seem to be going through a slump. Artis put up less than 10 points against Middle Tennesee and UTSA, and Omega Harris posted a mere three-point performance in both matchups against the Blue Raiders and Roadrunners. Per Floyd’s choice, the duo was left out of the starting lineup against UTSA.

Another area needing improvement for the Miners is a consistent free-throw percentage. UTEP went eight-for-16 on the line in the second half versus the Roadrunners, including a pair of go-ahead free throws they missed late in the game.

“We were very poor from the free-throw line,” Floyd said. “With the game tied at 66 we missed back-to-back free throws.”

Although they started off their conference schedule on the wrong foot, Florida Atlantic (4-14, 2-3 C-USA) comes into Thursday’s game against the Miners on a hot streak. The Owls had a come-from-behind, overtime victory against Southern Miss, 86-82.

Beating the Golden Eagles ended a nine-game losing streak the Owls carried going into the game. Then the Owls saw a similar finish against Louisiana Tech, as they overcame a 24-point deficit and upset the Bulldogs, 63-61.

Senior guard Jackson Trapp aided the Owls significantly in both victories. Trapp tied his season high with 15 points against the Golden Eagles. He hit the game-winning 3-pointer against Louisiana Tech, while still recording five rebounds and four points.

The Owls’ leading scorer, Adonis Filer, will prove to be a major key for the Miners to shut down. Filer averages 9.7 points per game and has racked in 175 points this season. He ranks second on the team for turnovers (36) and rebounds (73).

Along with Trapp and Filer in the backcourt is true freshman Nick Rutherford. He posted his career-high 16 points against the Bulldogs to contribute to the Owls’ come-from-behind victory. He currently ranks first on the team for assists (63) and fourth in scoring (121).

This matchup might be do-or-die for the Miners, as they are almost desperate for a win if they wish to continue to stay competitive in league play. After Florida Atlantic, the Miners will face Florida International on Saturday, Jan. 23 in the Don Haskins Center at 7:05 p.m.

Adrian Broaddus may be reached at [email protected]

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