THE TIP-OFF Looking to stamp out a season-long four-game losing streak, UTEP (10-13, 3-6 C-USA) takes another crack at Tulsa (14-9, 7-2 C-USA) on Wednesday. The Miners lost to the Golden Hurricane, 59-48, on Jan. 11 at the Donald W. Reynolds Center. Tulsa is the second of five teams that the Miners will face for a second time in the C-USA schedule. Rematches with Tulane (Saturday), Rice (Feb. 29) and SMU (March 3) are forthcoming. UTEP has already played Houston twice. Wednesday?s game will be nationally televised on the CBS Sports Network, with Dave Ryan (play-by-play) and Pete Gillen (analyst) handling the call. UTEP is 42-9 in C-USA home games since joining the league for the 2005-06 season (7-0 in 2006, 5-3 in 2007, 7-1 in 2008, 5-3 in 2009, 8-0 in 2010, 7-1 in 2011, 3-1 in 2012). The Miners have won 20 of their last 22 C-USA regular season home games dating back to the 2008-09 campaign, but are coming off a loss to UAB (61-60) on Saturday. UTEP hasn?t lost back-to-back C-USA home games since the 2008-09 season. Tulsa is the hottest team in the league. The Golden Hurricane has reeled off seven straight victories, starting with the win over the Miners nearly a month ago. Tulsa enters play Wednesday in second place in the C-USA standings, a half-game behind front-running Southern Miss. Tulsa is 5-3 on the road this season, including 3-1 in league action with wins at East Carolina (70-67), Rice (70-46) and SMU (66-60), and a loss at Houston (70-69 in overtime).
CUNNINGHAM TO BE HONORED Wednesday?s Miner Legend is Paul Cunningham, who will be honored at halftime. Cunningham is one of the greatest defensive players in school history. He helped the Miners to 84 wins and three postseason tournament bids (1981 & 1983 NIT, 1984 NCAA). An outstanding leaper, Cunningham led the team in rebounds with a 5.3 average during the 1982-83 season. He led the squad in steals average (1.2) in 1983-84. Cunningham concluded his career with 332 rebounds, 64 blocks and 84 steals in 94 games. His tip-in of a missed free throw by Fred Reynolds on Dec. 3, 1983 at New Mexico State gave the Miners a 60-59, double overtime win over the Aggies. Cunningham later was a color analyst for UTEP radio broadcasts. His son, Kasey Cunningham, played for coach Tim Floyd at USC.
SCOUTING TULSA The Golden Hurricane was 0-2 in C-USA play entering a Jan. 11 matchup against UTEP. Since then Tulsa has gone 7-0 with an average margin of victory of 8.9 points. Tulsa leads C-USA in scoring defense (59.4 ppg) for league games only, while ranking second in scoring margin (+6.6 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.398) & three-point field goal percentage (.410), and third in free throw percentage (.727), field goal percentage (.484), rebound margin (+4.2 rpg) & blocked shots (5.0 avg.). Sophomore guard Jordan Clarkson is averaging 15.9 points per game, including 16.3 ppg in C-USA contests. Junior guard Scottie Haralson averages 11.1 ppg and senior center Steven Idlet 9.7 ppg. Haralson is 17th in the country in three-pointers per game (3.0). As a team, the Golden Hurricane rates 20th nationally in blocks (5.4 avg.), 23rd in three-point field goal percentage (.390) and 27th in rebound margin (+6.0 rpg).
THE SERIES Tulsa leads the series, 28-16. The Miners have won five of the last seven games played between the schools after the Golden Hurricane beat UTEP four straight times over the course of the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. UTEP has won seven of the last nine games played between the rivals in El Paso to take a 9-8 edge in games played at the Haskins Center. UTEP?s Tim Floyd is 2-2 in his coaching career against Tulsa.
UTEP-TULSA CONNECTIONS UTEP?s John Bohannon (Lancaster, Texas/Lancaster HS) played against TU?s Jordan Clarkson (San Antonio, Texas/Wagner HS) in high school. Bohannon and D?Von Campbell (Arlington, Texas/Bowie HS) are also former AAU teammates of Tulsa?s Kodi Maduka (Arlington, Texas/Arlington HS).
THE LAST MEETING Freshman Eric McClellan scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half, and Kodi Mad- uka added 14 as Tulsa battled past UTEP, 59-48, at the Donald W. Reynolds Center on Jan. 11. The Golden Hurricane went on an 11-3 run after UTEP cut the deficit to 41-40 on two free throws by Michael Perez with 9:51 remaining. The Miners managed just eight points the rest of the game and were held under 50 for the first time in 12 games. Maduka started the 11-3 spurt with a dunk and a free throw, and McClellan capped it with a couple of foul shots. Perez tallied 14 points for the Miners, but they didn?t receive much scoring punch from John Bohannon (six points), Gabriel McCulley (seven) and Julian Washburn (three), who had combined for 55 points in a 70-50 win over Houston four days earlier. Tulsa had a big advantage at the free throw line, making 14-of-17 to UTEP?s 4-of-6, in a game that was otherwise even statistically. The Miners had rough starts and finishes to the first half. UTEP fell behind 9-2 in the opening four minutes, rallied to take a six- point lead, then was outscored 13-2 over the last 5:18 to trail 28-22 at the break. UTEP closed the gap to a point on five occasions in the second half, but could never regain the lead. Tulsa shot 45.5 percent and UTEP shot 41.7 percent.
UTEP?S LAST GAME Jordan Swing returned from injury to score 19 points and accounted for five of UAB?s nine three pointers as the Blazers sank UTEP, 61-60, on Saturday at the Don Haskins Center. Swing, who had missed the previous three games with a broken hand, made 7-of-13 shots and 5-of-8 triples in 31 minutes off the bench. UAB?s reserves outscored UTEP?s 26-2. The Blazers improved to 3-1 on the road in C-USA play while dealing UTEP its first conference home loss. UTEP trailed for most of the first half, falling behind 31-27 at the break. The Miners appeared to right the ship by going on a 13-2 run early in the second half to tie their largest lead, 40-35, on a layup by Gabriel McCulley off a Cedrick Lang steal with 11:45 to play. The Miners were still ahead 49-44 with under seven minutes remaining, but five straight points by Swing tied the game with 5:43 to go. It was a back-and-forth game over the final five minutes before Preston Purifoy broke a 59-59 tie on a jumper with 51 seconds left. After Purifoy missed a free throw -- and a chance at a three-point play -- McCulley was fouled on the defensive rebound and went to the line. He made the first and missed the second. Following a missed jumper by Swing, Michael Perez misfired on a three point attempt at the buzzer. John Bohannon scored a career-high 22 points, making 10-of-14 shots, and added eight rebounds for UTEP. Julian Washburn scored 16 points, but they were the only Miners in double figures. Purifoy scored 12 points, and Cameron Moore had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds for UAB. Moore also blocked six shots and had three steals. The Miners outshot UAB 45.5 percent to 43.4 percent, but were outrebounded 34-29 and went to the line just nine times, including eight times in the final three minutes.
UTEP AT A GLANCE The Miners are starting fresh this season with nine newcomers, including a Division I transfer (junior guard Jacques Streeter) and seven freshmen. UTEP returns just three letterwinners and one starter (senior forward Gabriel McCulley) from last year?s unit that finished 25-10 overall and tied for second place in Conference USA with an 11-5 mark. The Miners lost 82.5 percent of their scoring and 70.6 percent of their rebounding production from the 2010-11 squad, which had eight seniors.
UTEP IN THE C-USA STATISTICS (Through games of Feb. 4, 2012)
Category Stat Rank Scoring offense 65.2 10 Scoring defense 64.0 7 Scoring margin +1.2 9 Free throw % 70.5 4 Field goal % 47.5 2 Field goal % defense 43.7 11 3-point field goal % 35.9 5 3-point field goal % defense 35.6 11 3-pointers per game 4.9 12 Rebound margin -0.6 11 Blocked shots 3.0 11 Assists 14.7 1 Steals 5.0 11 Turnover margin -0.9 8 Assist/turnover ratio 1.1 2
Individual Category Stat Rank J. Bohannon Blocks 1.0 t14 J. Bohannon Field goal % 60.4 2 J. Bohannon Rebounding 7.4 9 J. Bohannon Scoring 11.3 22 G. McCulley Field goal % 56.2 5 G. McCulley Free throw % 75.9 10 G. McCulley Scoring 12.2 16 G. McCulley Steals 1.2 12 M. Perez 3-pointers per game 1.5 13 M. Perez Free throw % 74.6 12 M. Perez Scoring 11.9 18 J. Streeter Assists 4.6 2 J. Streeter Assist/turnover ratio 2.3 2 J. Washburn Field goal % 47.7 12 J. Washburn Scoring 11.2 23
IN LEAGUE PLAY UTEP tops C-USA in assists for league games only (14.8 avg.). The Miners are second in field goal percentage (.484) & free throw percentage (.729), and third in assist/turnover ratio (1.1). John Bohannon is first in field goal percentage (.683) and defensive rebound average (7.9), and third in rebounding (9.3 avg.) for C-USA games. Jacques Streeter is second in assist/turnover ratio (2.5).
UTEP IN THE NCAA STATISTICS The Miners held national top-100 rankings in field goal percentage (33rd, .475), assists per game (51st, 14.7), personal fouls per game (67th, 16.7), assist/turnover ratio (73rd, 1.09) & scoring defense (97th, 64.0 ppg) through the games of Feb. 5. Individually, Jacques Streeter was 38th in assist/turnover ratio (2.3) & 84th in assists (4.6 avg.).
TRIPLE DOSE OF HEARTACHE UTEP has lost three straight conference games by five points or less for the first time since the 1995-96 season, when it dropped four nailbiters in a row to San Diego State (72-71 in overtime), Colorado State (66-62), Wyoming (72-68 in overtime) and New Mexico (64-60). Overall it marks just the fourth time since 1950 that the Miners have lost three consecutive league games by five points or fewer.
Season Consec. Losses Opponent (Score) 1995-96 4+ San Diego St. (72-71), Colorado St. (66-62), Wyoming (72-68), New Mexico (64-60) 1957-58 3^ Arizona St. (65-62), Arizona (60-59), New Mexico State (56-54) 1976-77 3+ New Mexico (59-58), Utah (66-65), BYU (65-63) 2011-12 3 Houston (81-76), Rice (77-75), UAB (61-60)
+ Western Athletic Conference ^ Border Conference
A ROUGH PATCH UTEP has lost four straight conference games for the first time since the 2002-03 season, when it dropped seven in a row at one point on its way to a 3-15 mark in Western Athletic Conference action. This year?s squad, however, is vastly superior to Billy Gillispie?s first Miner team. UTEP has lost four league games by eight points or less this season. The 2002-03 Miners were routinely pummelled in league action, with 12 of their 15 defeats coming by 12 points or more.
A ONE-POINTER IN ?THE DON? UTEP lost a conference home game by a single point on Saturday for the first time since 1998, and for the 12th time in the history of the Don Haskins Center, which opened on Feb. 3, 1977.
Date Opponent Score 2/19/77 New Mexico L 58-59 2/25/77 Utah L 65-66 3/3/79 New Mexico L 82-83 1/5/80 BYU L 69-70 2/3/83 Hawaii L 55-56 1/30/88 New Mexico L 69-70 2/24/90 Hawaii L 59-60 3/9/95 Hawaii+ L 65-66 2/17/96 Colorado State L 76-77 2/29/96 Fresno State L 87-88 2/28/98 BYU L 75-76 (3OT) 2/4/12 UAB L, 60-61
+ Western Athletic Conference Tournament game
TOUGH NIGHT FOR THE GUARDS UTEP?s Michael Perez & Jacques Streeter combined for 11 points in Saturday?s loss to UAB, their fewest in tandem since Nov. 26 versus Stephen F. Austin (10 points). Perez, who was held to five points by the Blazers, has scored in double figures in 14 of the last 18 games -- averaging 13.7 ppg during that span. Streeter has scored in double figures five times in 2011-12, but just once in the last 11 outings.
STARTERS CARRYING THE LOAD UTEP has received 131 of 135 points (97 percent) from its starters in the last two games as injuries have depleted the Miner bench. Two big men (Malcolm Moore & Hooper Vint) are out for the season with injuries, and freshman forward Cedrick Lang?s playing time has been curtailed with a stress fracture in his foot. UTEP?s bench has been outscored 45-4 in the last two games. The last time the Miners received two points or fewer from their reserves in consecutive contests was in back-to-back games versus New Mexico State in November of 1995 (one and two points respectively).
HOW THEY?VE FARED The Miners have held opponents? top scorers below their season average in 18 of 23 games.
Opp. Leading Scorer Vs. UTEP UTSA Melvin Johnson III (14.9 ppg)* 9 pts (4-9 FG) UC Riverside Phil Martin (22.0 ppg) 6 pts (3-11 FG) at NM State Wendell McKines (16.0 ppg) 23 pts (5-13 FG) SFA Antonio Bostic (16.0 ppg) 18 pts (7-11 FG) at Oregon Garrett Sim (14.0 ppg) 2 pts (0-6 FG) NM State Wendell McKines (18.1 ppg) 4 pts (1-7 FG) at UNLV Chace Stanback (15.2 ppg) 5 pts (2-8 FG) Southern Derick Beltran (12.2 ppg) 9 pts (3-12 FG) McNeese State Patrick Richard (16.4 ppg) 12 pts (6-11 FG) Clemson Andre Young (13.7 ppg) 6 pts (1-9 FG) Kansas State Jamar Samuels (12.4 ppg) 10 pts (1-8 FG) Auburn Frankie Sullivan (14.4 ppg) 7 pts (2-5 FG) Colorado State Wes Eikmeier (17.3 ppg) 16 pts (7-8 FG) Ark.-Pine Bluff Savalace Townsend (18.0 ppg) 3 pts (1-10 FG) at Marshall DeAndre Kane (16.7 ppg) 10 pts (5-12 FG) Houston .................Jonathon Simmons (15.9 ppg).......... 6 pts (3-7 FG) at Tulsa Jordan Clarkson (15.3 ppg) 10 pts (3-8 FG) SMU Robert Nyakundi (15.5 ppg) 8 pts (3-9 FG) East Carolina Miguel Paul (16.0 ppg) 14 pts (5-9 FG) at Tulane Ricky Tarrant (12.3 ppg)^ 22 pts (6-9 FG) at Houston Jonathon Simmons (14.4 ppg) 25 pts (10-18 FG) at Rice Arsalan Kazemi (13.1 ppg) 20 pts (6-8 FG) UAB Cameron Moore (16.1 ppg) 11 pts (4-12 FG)
* Scoring average from 2010-11 season ^ Second-leading scorer. Leading scorer Kendall Timmons was out due to injury