GAME NOTES: The Texas-El Paso Miners try to continue their strong play at home on Saturday when they welcome the Tulane Green Wave to the Don Haskins Center for a pivotal Conference USA battle.
UTEP is 9-1 as the hosts this season, but enters this matchup on the heels of a shocking overtime loss on the road against the UAB Blazers. The Miners blew a 15-point lead midway through the second half and fell 78-72. McKenzie Moore led the way for UTEP with 18 points off 3-of-4 shooting from long-range, as the Miners brief two-game winning streak came to an end. Konner Tucker scored 16 points and Julian Washburn added 12. John Bohannon gathered 10 boards and was the game's top rebounder.
Tulane, meanwhile, has alternated wins and losses its last five times out and on Tuesday was upended by Central Florida, 58-50. Josh Davis recorded 18 points, nine boards, and a career-best six blocks in the losing effort, while Ricky Tarrant scored 10 points.
UTEP beat the Green Wave earlier in the season and has won the last two meetings. The Miners lead the all-time series, 8-3.
Tulane led the Knights by six at the half on Tuesday and held them to just 6- of-24 shooting in the first 20 minutes. However, it was a different story after the break, as Tulane hit just seven of its 25 field goal attempts and committed 12 turnovers that led to 21 points for the Knights in the final 20 minutes. The Green Wave shot 35.2 percent from the floor for the game, including four-of-15 from 3-point range. The Green Wave also hit eight-of-14 free throws, collected nine blocks and had eight steals.
Davis (17.5 ppg, 10.2 rpg) has 11 double-doubles on the year and has recorded one in five of his last eight games. He is the leading scorer and rebounder in C-USA. In the backcourt, Tarrant (15.4 ppg) and Callahan (10.8 ppg) provide additional offensive punch. The trio make up a huge chunk of Tulane's scoring production as only one other player accounts for more than six points per game. Tulane has managed to limit opponents with its defense though, by letting up just 59.1 ppg, which is good for second in the league.
UAB outscored UTEP 36-21 over the final 13:21 of regulation to force overtime. Not helping the Miners' cause was the fact that they converted just 14-of-29 from the free-throw line. However, they shot 50 percent from the field and made 10-of-19 3-pointers. Besides struggling at the line, they were also outrebounded 38-32 by the Blazers, a team that had just two players over 6- foot-6.
Washburn leads the Miners in scoring this season with 12.3 ppg, but was just 1-for-7 from the charity stripe in the loss to UAB. Although he leads the team in scoring he is just 3-of-30 from 3-point range this season and is shooting 42.2 percent from the field. Tucker (12.0 ppg) and Bohannon (10.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg) are both also averaging double figures, while Bohannon is shooting 58.5 percent from the field. The Miners have been most impressive defensively, holding opponents to 61.8 ppg and 41.6 percent shooting from the field.
The Green Wave play solid defense but have a lot trouble shooting the ball. UTEP, on the other hand, is one of the top teams in the conference and has been exceptional in front of its fans this season. That trend should continue on Saturday.
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