The Miners of Texas-El Paso will try once again to keep their unblemished home record in tact, as they entertain the UNLV Runnin' Rebels in non-conference play at the Don Haskins Center on Monday.
The Miners started out the season rather rough with just one win in five opportunities, but there is a chance the team has turned the corner in recent weeks. The squad managed to snap a four-game slide with a narrow 55-54 victory over New Mexico State back on Nov. 28, and then followed that up with a 64-60 home triumph versus another Western Athletic Conference foe in Idaho on Dec. 8.
As for the Runnin' Rebels, they've been dealing with the loss of Mike Moser to a dislocated right elbow, yet they haven't missed a beat. In fact, since bowing to Oregon (83-79) at home back on Nov. 23, the team has rattled off six more victories, two of which have been on the road. More recently, the Rebels hit the hardwood last Thursday against La Verne and handed the little known program a 91-44 defeat at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The 44 points allowed were the fewest of the season for UNLV.
As far as the all-time series is concerned, the Rebels have won nine of the previous 12 contests. UNLV posted a 65-54 victory in the most recent encounter last season at the Thomas & Mack Center, which means the Rebels have taken four straight and six of the last seven overall.
UNLV started out a bit slow against La Verne last week, but in the second half lit up the scoreboard with 65.5 percent shooting from the floor and a perfect 3-of-3 effort beyond the arc in order to cruise to the 47-point victory. While the Rebels finished the outing at 52.5 percent from the field, their overmatched opponents made just 31.4 percent and were 4-of-20 behind the 3- point line. Taking charge was Anthony Bennett with 27 points and 14 rebounds, both of which were game highs, while Katin Reinhardt and Savon Goodman contributed another 14 and 13 points, respectively, the latter also clearing nine boards as UNLV produced a massive 49-27 advantage on the glass. With Moser watching from the bench, Bennett has assumed a leadership role for the Runnin' Rebels even though he is just a freshman. Against La Verne, Bennett registered career-highs in points and rebounds, not to mention assists (three) and is now carrying a 20.5 ppg scoring average. Like Moser last season, Bennett is also a potential double-double waiting to happen, now averaging 8.9 rpg for UNLV.
Shooting a shade over 52 percent from the field in both the first and second halves against Idaho the last time out, one would have thought that the Miners would be well on their way to a comfortable victory, but in the end UTEP barely slipped by with the four-point decision. Jalen Ragland scored a game- high 17 points and Julian Washburn accounted for 16, while John Bohannon gave the squad a huge lift off the bench with a double-double consisting of 15 points and a season-high 10 rebounds. The effort by Bohannon on the glass is somewhat unusual for the Miners since they are averaging a mere 25.6 rpg at the moment, trailing the competition by 6.5 rpg. While no one on the team has managed to score in double figures in every game so far this season, Julian Washburn has certainly come close and is putting up a team-best 12.0 ppg because of it. Defensively, the Miners are holding opponents to just 63.6 ppg, but unfortunately the offense is failing to reach even that mark with a mere 56.7 ppg right now.