Texas-El Paso (14-15) at S-M-U (12-18)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 3, 3:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Moody Coliseum (8,998) -- Dallas, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: Texas-El Paso 11-5, SMU 8-6. Away Record: Texas-El Paso 1-9, SMU 3-9. Neutral Record: Texas-El Paso 2-1, SMU 1-3. Conference Record: Texas-El Paso 7-8, SMU 3-12. Series Record: Texas-El Paso leads, 25-14.
GAME NOTES: A pair of struggling Conference USA teams try and finish out the regular season on a high note, as SMU hosts Texas-El Paso at Moody Coliseum.
Texas-El Paso suffered a costly defeat Wednesday at home to Rice, locking the Miners into the eighth seed for the upcoming conference tournament and a possible quarterfinal matchup against the league's top seed. The Owls produced a timely 11-3 run late in the second half after the Miners had moved in front and scored six straight points inside the final minute to seal the eventual 68-61 win. UTEP managed only a 36.4-percent shooting performance in a game it had to have, losing its second game in a row on the heels of a four-game win streak. Gabriel McCulley recorded 17 points and seven rebounds, while John Bohannon netted 13 points as the Miners fell to 7-8 in conference play.
SMU lost for the fifth time in six tries Wednesday, dropping a 67-60 decision at Southern Miss. The hosts shot 52.2 percent from the field and outrebounded the Mustangs, 37-19. SMU landed 45.5 percent of its field goals and got 18 points from Robert Nyakundi, while Jeremiah Samarrippas registered 13 points. The Mustangs fell to 3-12 in Conference USA with the defeat, tying them with Tulane for last place in the conference.
UTEP has owned the Mustangs of late with 17 wins in the past 18 meetings, including a 70-64 overtime triumph Jan. 14 in El-Paso. The lone win in that period for SMU came via a double-overtime victory in Dallas during the 2007-08 season. The Miners lead the all-time series by a 25-14 count and are 11-1 versus the Mustangs since the two programs entered Conference USA for the 2005-06 campaign.
The Miners spread the ball around nicely with four players averaging better than 11.0 points per game. The senior McCulley is at the head of that charge, averaging 11.5 points, while the sophomore Bohannon contributes a healthy 11.4 ppg, paces the club in rebounding with 7.4 per game and stands second in C-USA in field-goal percentage (60.1 percent). Michael Perez also puts up 11.4 ppg and leads the team with 40 three-pointers on 38.5 percent shooting. Julian Washburn adds 11.1 ppg to the mix and Jacques Streeter ranks second in C-USA with 4.7 assists per game while chipping in 7.3 ppg. UTEP is among C-USA's best shooting teams, dropping in 46.6 percent of its field goals to rank third in the league with three players shooting better than 50.0 percent from the field in McCulley (54.0 percent) and Cedrick Lang (61.5 percent) alongside Bohannon. The Miners average 64.1 ppg and give up 63.3 per contest on 42.6 percent shooting. Despite the efforts of the 6-10 Bohannon, Texas-El Paso ranks second-to-last in C-USA in rebounding with just 31.2 per game.
The Mustangs are paced by the likes of Nyakundi first and foremost. The senior leads the club in a host of categories including scoring (15.0 ppg), rebounding (4.7 rpg) and three-pointers with 78 on 42.6 percent shooting. His three-point percentage is the best in all of C-USA and his total of 78 stands second in the league. London Giles checks in at 10.4 ppg and also connects on a healthy number of triples with 49 on 38.3 percent shooting. Jalen Jones adds 7.9 ppg to the mix while Samarrippas kicks in 7.1 ppg and dishes a team- leading 4.2 assists per contest. The offense on a whole produces a league-low 59.9 ppg and shoots 42.4 percent from the field but the Mustang defense usually gives those numbers a chance to stand up by holding teams to a league- low 60.0 ppg and a 42.7 shooting percentage. Another noted source of struggle for the Mustangs is in the rebounding department, hauling in a mere 28.0 per game with a minus-5.2 margin -- both marks standing as league-lows.
The Miners have little to play for at this point but should be angry at how their regular season has ended after a promising win streak. SMU has struggled all season, home and away, and that fact shouldn't change.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-El Paso 60, SMU 56
03/03 10:37:47 ET