The Prospector

Five things men’s basketball needs to fix before breaking their losing streak

The+Miners+have+lost+six+straight+games.
The Miners have lost six straight games.

The Miners have lost six straight games.

Gaby Velasquez

Gaby Velasquez

The Miners have lost six straight games.

Adrian Broaddus, Copy Editor

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It’s been no secret that the Miners (7-17, 2-10 C-USA) have been on a downhill cycle and have been underperforming during conference play as of late.

They’ve lost six straight games and lost nine of their last 10 games. If that’s not bad enough, they aren’t getting significant performances from their veteran talent, with guards Omega Harris and Keith Frazier underperforming.

Below are the five things they need to fix before their road trips against Charlotte (Feb. 15) and Old Dominion (Feb. 17).

More play from their veterans

This season has been just as anticlimactic as it could get for senior guard Harris. Coming into the season, there was even talk about the guard finding his way into the top of the conference for scoring, but an injury that seems to bother him continues to plague his scoring. Ever since Frazier left for personal reasons in December, he hasn’t been the same either, seeing his points per game drop from as high as 15 to just 11 a game.

Harris, who averaged as many as 17 points per game last season, now averages barely 11, and guard Keith Frazier, who has been in and out of the Miners’ rotation in the past games, also saw a four-point drop. Through his last six games, Frazier combined for just 21 total points. This past Saturday, UTEP sat Harris out from the starting lineup for the first time in 57 games.

If the two guards want to change their game, they need to focus on two big things—earning their minutes played and scoring more points. When Frazier is randomly placed into the mix, he shoots everything that comes his way. If he dishes out more passes, works with his team more, the points will come with the ball movement. If Harris can use freshmen guards Kobe Magee and Evan Gilyard, who have both seen their minutes increase, to play more of the role at the guard spot, Harris can then be the off-guard, who can be the spot up shooter that he’s known to be.

Tirus Smith needs to find his way back into the rotation

The Miners were given a glimpse of the action from freshman forward and big man Tirus Smith on Saturday against UTSA when he entered the game after almost a month sidelined from an injury. In just five minutes, he recorded five points and a block for the team.

What Smith does is relieve stress from center Matt Willms, who has been injury prone all year. An off-the-bench rotation with Smith creates opportunities for players such as forward Paul Thomas, Magee or Gilyard to find an outside shot.

If Smith can clock in about 15 minutes off the bench, the Miners could see their ailing rebound margin, which falls in the bottom two of the conference, come up.

Consistency, consistency and more consistency

In order to win basketball games, a team needs to be consistent on points scored, rebounding, holding their opponents on scoring and free throws. It seems like each game the Miners can find success on three of those components and completely fail on the last one, which ends up costing them the game.

For example, in Saturday’s game, the Miners missed 18 of 34 free throws in their 63-59 loss to UTSA. Had they made just five of those free throws, as interim head coach Phil Johnson pointed out, they could have won the game.

Currently, the Miners sit among the last in C-USA in about every statistical category—scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, free-throws, 3-pointers, assists and steals.

The Miners have to put up two impressive halves against both Charlotte and Old Dominion in order to stand a chance to win.

Score more points

UTEP ranks as the second-worst scoring team in C-USA, reaching just 68.0 points per game each game. This couldn’t come at a worse time when players such as Magee, Gilyard and Thomas are leading them recently in points.

Frankly, the Miners need more points from the likes of Harris, Willms and Frazier. With the younger players starting to get more looks and shots, it will create opportunities for these veteran players to score points and open more easy looks for them.

Charlotte currently ranks No. 11 in C-USA in scoring, averaging 69.3, while Old Dominion averages 73.2, putting them at No. 8 in the league.

Gain confidence and finally win on the road

One of the things Johnson said following the loss to UTSA was the fact that the Miners’ confidence needs a win. Seems like the team has forgotten how to win, from just a 2-10 C-USA overall record to blowing large leads.

A win on the road can start to build some confidence for the ailing team, as they are currently 0-6 playing away. Whether it’s the fact that they are undermanned for these games on the road, losing players to injuries, or if it’s the fact that they aren’t used to winning on the road, the Miners are in desperate need for a win.

The Miners currently sit as the No. 12 spot in C-USA, but a loss to Charlotte could risk their post-season league tournament chances.

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Five things men’s basketball needs to fix before breaking their losing streak