Idaho (3-4) at Texas-El Paso (2-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 8, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Don Haskins Center (12,000) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: Idaho 2-2, UTEP 2-0. Away Record: Idaho 1-2, UTEP 0-1. Neutral Record: Idaho 0-0, UTEP 0-3. Conference Record: Idaho 0-0, UTEP 0-0. Series Record: Texas-El Paso leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: Settling in for a residency at the Don Haskins Center, the Miners of Texas-El Paso play host to the Idaho Vandals on Saturday night.
UTEP, which isn't slated to play anywhere else other than home until Jan. 2 when it challenges the Colorado State Rams in Fort Collins, snapped a four- game slide the last time out with a narrow 55-54 victory over visiting New Mexico State. The only other win for the program came in the season opener against Oral Roberts, 69-49.
As for the Vandals, they were in action two nights ago against Eastern Washington and had to go to overtime in order to secure an 81-79 win on the road. The victory was the first away from home for a pesky Idaho squad which has now won two in a row overall.
As far as the all-time series is concerned, the Miners won both previous encounters with Idaho, although it has been more than 35 years since they last met. The squads battled on consecutive days in El Paso at the end of 1975, with UTEP putting up an 86-51 win in the first game, and then capturing a 75-61 decision the next day as the hosts forced a staggering 57 turnovers in those meetings.
Idaho trailed by as many as 17 points against Eastern Washington on the road two nights ago, yet the Vandals didn't pack it in, instead they fought back and forced the game into overtime where they slipped by with an 81-79 victory. The comeback tied the largest under head coach Don Verlin and saw Stephen Madison put together a double-double over the course of 42 minutes that consisted of a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds. Not to be outdone, Kyle Barone had a double-double of his own with 20 points and a team-best 11 boards, adding five assists and five blocked shots for good measure. Mansa Habeeb and Connor Hill contributed 10 points and five rebounds apiece. Except for the fact that he is shooting only 61.0 percent at the free-throw line through the first seven games, Barone is a force to be reckoned with as he averages 15.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest. Madison has taken over the scoring lead with 17.7 ppg and is second in assists with close to three per game, but he would be wise to spend more time in the paint where he has pulled down 5.6 rpg and not so much beyond the arc where he is only 25.0 percent accurate.
A pair of free throws by Chris Washburn with five seconds remaining wiped away a four-point deficit for the Miners the last time out against New Mexico State and provided the team with a one-point win at the Haskins Center. Chris Washburn didn't make a single shot from the floor, but did knock down all but one of his eight free-throw attempts off the bench in 17 minutes for the hosts. Julian Washburn was responsible for 20 points and John Bohannon 15 for a program that shot a mere 1-of-8 out on the perimeter, but made up for it by forcing 20 turnovers. A low-scoring team this season, the Miners are producing just 55.5 ppg, which means they are being outscored by almost nine points per game at this juncture. Julian Washburn has tried to give the group a fighting chance with his 11.3 ppg, but his 38.2 percent accuracy from the floor is lacking, but not quite as bad as his 1-of-10 showing behind the three-point line. Bohannon (11.0 ppg) gives the Miners their best chance on the glass with his 4.7 rpg, but still the group is falling short of even 26 rpg currently.
Idaho is capable of winning on the road, particularly against an opponent like the Miners and a such a matchup at this point could give the Vandals some much-needed confidence moving forward.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Idaho 65, Texas-El Paso 57
12/08 10:30:28 ET