Texas-El Paso (14-11) at New Mexico State (18-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 23, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Pan American Center (12,482) -- Las Cruces, New Mexico. Television: AggieVision, ESPN3.com. Home Record: UTEP 12-2, NMSU 12-1. Away Record: UTEP 2-6, NMSU 6-7. Neutral Record: UTEP 0-3, NMSU 0-1. Conference Record: UTEP 7-5, NMSU 12-3. Series Record: New Mexico State leads, 103-100.
GAME NOTES: Rivals along the I-10 take a break from their respective conference schedules on Saturday night, as the New Mexico State Aggies host the Miners of Texas-El Paso at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces.
New Mexico State, which enters the weekend in third place in the Western Athletic Conference standings with a record of 12-3, is hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 73-69 road loss to Utah State last weekend. The defeat snapped what had been a lengthy 12-game win streak for NMSU.
As for the Miners, they too suffered through their weakest offensive effort of 2012-13 on Wednesday night when they bowed to Southern Miss on the road in a 45-39 final. The setback was the third in four games for UTEP, which is now 7-5 against the rest of Conference USA.
The Miners won the first meeting of the season at home by a slim 55-54 final back in November, but still that leaves UTEP trailing in the all-time series by a count of 103-100 according to NMSU records.
For the second time this season the Miners went out on the road and held an opponent to just 45 points, but again the team came up with the loss after having it happen at Tulsa last month. This time, Southern Miss was limited to just 33.3 percent shooting from the floor, including 5-of-22 beyond the arc, but at the same time UTEP shot only 30.0 percent from the field and 4-of-26 on the outside. McKenzie Moore put together a double-double for the visitors with 12 points and 11 rebounds, but it wasn't enough of an effort.
Over the last five games the Miners have had a different leading scorer each time out, but overall that distinction still goes to Julian Washburn who has tallied 11.9 ppg in spite of his awful 5-of-37 showing beyond the arc. Konner Tucker (11.6 ppg) and John Bohannon (10.7 ppg) are also key figures for the team as they generate 63.4 ppg. Obviously this is a team not built on offense, rather it is the defense that has kept the Miners competitive by holding foes to 61.3 ppg.
New Mexico State was the team on a roll heading into the meeting with Utah State on the road in Logan last weekend, but the Aggies fell behind early and never fully recovered as they suffered the four-point loss. Granted, NMSU did erase 10 points of its deficit down the stretch, but the visitors only shot 37.9 percent from the floor and 2-of-8 beyond the arc in the second half. Remi Barry delivered 15 points off the bench for the Aggies, followed by Bandja Sy with 12 and both Terrel de Rouen and Daniel Mullings with 11 points apiece in the setback.
Averaging 34 minutes per game, Mullings is someone who likes to have his hands in every facet of the game for NMSU. He not only leads the team in both scoring (14.3 ppg) and assists (69), he is also first with 58 steals and is responsible for 5.2 rpg for a team that is clearing 38.1 rpg and beating opponents on the glass by more than six rebounds per game at the moment. Bandja (11.3 ppg) and Sim Bhullar (10.1 ppg) combine for another 13.3 ppg as well.
The Miners will be aiming to make this a halfcourt game and that might work in favor of NMSU which will be camped out in the lane waiting for any and all missed shots. Expect a controlled game, one that will have the Aggies on top at the end.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: New Mexico State 62, Texas-El Paso 55
02/23 10:35:08 ET