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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 9, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Don Haskins Center (12,000) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: Tulsa 7-3, UTEP 11-1. Away Record: Tulsa 4-6, UTEP 2-4. Neutral Record: Tulsa 1-2, UTEP 0-3. Conference Record: Tulsa 4-5, UTEP 6-2. Series Record: Tulsa leads, 29-17.
GAME NOTES: The Tulsa Golden Hurricane have made the trek to the Lone Star State to take on the Texas-El Paso Miners in a Conference USA battle from the Don Haskins Center.
After falling to UAB at home on Wednesday night, 70-63, the Golden Hurricane have dropped three straight decisions, and four of their last five overall.
With this game, the Miners finish a three-game homestand. They were victorious in the first two, the most recent being a 65-53 decision over Rice, also on Wednesday night. UTEP currently sits tied with UCF for the third-best record in the conference.
Although Tulsa leads the all-time series, 28-17, the teams have alternated wins in the last six contests. In a low-scoring affair earlier this season, the Golden Hurricane prevailed at home in a 45-42 final. The 87 combined points were the fewest scored by two teams in the history of the Reynolds Center, which opened in December of 1998. The teams split the season series last year, with each winning on the road.
In its last outing, Tulsa fell behind big early and could not recover in what wound up being a 70-63 home loss to UAB. Tulsa's Rashad Ray came off the bench to score 17 points, while Pat Swilling added 11 points and Shaquille Harrison had 10. UAB came out in the first half and built a 24-point lead twice, but Tulsa trimmed the lead to 12 points at halftime. In the second half, the Hurricane got to within four points, 56-52, with 9:04 to play, but that was as close as the Hurricane would get. Tulsa connected on only 4-of-18 3-point tries compared to UAB's 9-of-20 showing, while UAB was 24-of-44 from the field and Tulsa 20-of-52.
The loss to UAB notwithstanding, Tulsa has been playing good defense, allowing just 65.0 points per game. That type of defensive success has been wasted though due to a struggling offensive effort, the team netting just 65.3 points per game on 43.3 percent shooting. James Woodard (12.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg) is one of only two players on the roster averaging double figures as well as the team's top player on the glass. Swilling (10.5 ppg) gives the team a spark off the bench, while Scottie Haralson (9.7 ppg) adds a third option.
C.J. Cooper connected on a career-high four 3-point field goals, finishing with 14 points, and UTEP tied its season high with 10 treys in the 65-53 win over Rice. Cooper scored in double-figures for the first time this season and just the fourth time in his Miner career, shooting 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. The Miners knocked down 10-of-19 triples for the second time in three games. The Miners enjoyed their third-best shooting night of the season (.511) while tying a season-high with 21 assists. John Bohannon (11 points) and Julian Washburn (10) joined Cooper in double figures.
Strong defense has also been the calling card for UTEP. The Miners are allowing just 60.8 points per game, third-best in the conference, while teams shoot at a 41.5 percent rate from the field this season. That has largely helped the Miners overcome their less-than-stellar offensive production as they rank ahead of only Rice in scoring (63.9 ppg) among conference teams. The Miners are also only better than Rice in rebounding (31.2 pg) in comparison to the rest of the C-USA. Washburn (12.1 ppg) and Konner Tucker (11.5 ppg) are the top two scoring options on the squad. Tucker, a transfer, missed the first eight games of the season with a broken bone in his shooting hand, but has been a valuable contributor since rejoining the squad in December. Bohannon (10.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.8 bpg) has provided a nice third option in the frontcourt, while cleaning the glass and protecting the rim better than any other player on the roster.
With both teams playing tight defense and having difficulty putting the ball in the basket, expect a low-scoring game. Give the advantage to the Miners, as they are have been much more consistent of late, as they should finish their homestand undefeated and hand the Golden Hurricane their fourth straight defeat.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-El Paso 65, Tulsa 62
02/09 11:44:40 ET
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