The 2-1 UTEP Miners visit Tucson today to play the 4-0 Arizona Wildcats. Arizona is coming off an 85-60 win over Cal St. Bakersfield while UTEP is coming off a 73-61 loss to St. Mary’s.
Arizona Starters: (6’1″ Jr.) James Akinjo, (6’4″ Jr.) Jemarl Baker, (6’7″ Fr.) Dalen Terry, (6’11” So.) Jordan Brown, (7’0″ So.) Christian Koloko.
In their previous game against CSB, Coach Sean Miller elected to go small and started (6’1″ Sr.) Terrell Brown in place of Jordan Brown, essentially using 4 guards/wing players around 7 footer Christian Koloko.
The Wildcats have only played in 1 tight game this season, a 70-67 win over Eastern Washington. In their 3 other games the Cats are beating their opponents by an average of 29 points, including a 43 point trouncing of Northern Arizona.
The Wildcats have showed quite a bit of depth so far this year and have 9 players averaging at least 14 minutes per game with Akinjo leading the way at 31 minutes per game. Baker leads the team in scoring at 15 ppg and has been on fire over his last two games from 3 point range making 10 of 16. As a team the Cats are shooting 41% from distance, ranking them 22nd in the country.
They are currently ranked 23rd in the country in 2-point FG percentage holding their opponents to a paltry 36% shooting percentage per game. On offense the Cats are averaging just under 48% on their 2 pt. attempts.
UTEP Starters: (6’3″ Sr.) Souley Boum, (6’8″ Sr.) Bryson Williams (6’5″ So.) Keonte Kennedy, (6’5″ Jr.) Jamal Bieniemy, (6’9″ Sr.) Tydus Verhoeven.
UTEP is coming off a 12 point loss to the St. Mary’s Gaels 4 days ago in Northern California. Their other two games (wins) were against non Division 1 opponents. They are averaging almost 82 points per game but only managed to score 61 against St. Mary’s.
The Miners will also go 9 deep but they are lead by Seniors Souley Boum (26 pts, 5.3 assists per game) and Bryson Williams (19 pts, 9.3 rebounds per game). Keonte Kennedy is their only other player averaging double digit points (10.3 ppg) so far this season. So there is a significant drop off in production after Boum and Williams. The two of them combine to average more than half of their teams points, accounting for 55% of their scoring. Boum is shooting 11 of 20 from 3 point range this year, putting him at an impressive 55%.
The Miners do not foul a lot or give their opponents many opportunities at the free throw line. They only allow 12.7 free throw attempts per game against them, ranking them 23rd in the country. By comparision, Arizona’s opponents are averaging 18 free throw attempts per game.
The Miners haven’t turned the ball over a lot so far this year, averaging only 10.3 turnovers per game compared to Arizona’s 13.3 per game.
Those two stats might just be the key to UTEP making this game competitive. A team that doesn’t turn the ball over a lot and doesn’t send the other team to the foul line a lot usually has a chance to at least keep the game reasonably close. And if they can do that they just might have a chance to pull off the upset.