El Paso, TX — UTEP (21-9, 11-4 C-USA) will conclude the regular season at UTSA (8-20, 4-11 C-USA) on Thursday at 6 p.m. MT.
The Miners are in fifth place in the C-USA standings, a game behind Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss and Tulsa who are tied for first at 12-3. The top four teams earn a double bye to the Conference USA Championship March 11-15 in El Paso.
The schedule for the other C-USA contenders on Thursday includes Louisiana Tech at Rice, Middle Tennessee at UAB, Tulsa at North Texas and Southern Miss at Tulane.
If the C-USA Championship started today, the seeds would be as follows: (1) Louisiana Tech, (2) Tulsa, (3) Middle Tennessee, (4) Southern Miss, (5) UTEP, (6) Old Dominion, (7) Tulane, (8) UAB, (9) Charlotte, (10) North Texas, (11) Florida Atlantic, (12) East Carolina, (13) UTSA, (14) Marshall and (15) Rice. UTEP would face the winner of the East Carolina/UTSA game on Wednesday if the current seeding stands.
UTEP is facing its travel partner, UTSA, for the first time since Jan. 25 when it won 81-62 at the Haskins Center. Since then the Miners have posted a 7-3 record, while UTSA has gone 2-8.
The Roadrunners have lost eight of their last nine games and 11 of their last 13 to drop to 8-20 overall.
In its last action on Saturday, UTSA dropped a heartbreaker at Tulsa, 72-70 in overtime. D’Andre Wright’s putback layup with one second left was the winning bucket. Tulsa scored 33 points off 21 turnovers by the Roadrunners.
UTSA has coughed up the basketball 447 times in 2013-14 (16.0 avg.) to lead C-USA. The Roadrunners are also last in the league in scoring defense (77.3 ppg), scoring margin (-8.0 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.470), three-point field goal percentage defense (.367), blocks (1.9 bpg), turnover margin (-4.1) and assist/turnover ratio (0.7).
UTSA’s top three scorers are junior guard Keon Lewis (13.0 ppg), senior guard Devon Agusi (11.8 ppg) and senior guard/forward Jordan Sims (10.6 ppg). Sims is third in C-USA in three pointers per game (2.7).
UTSA is 7-8 at home (4-3 in C-USA play) and averaging 886 fans in the 2,650-seat Convocation Center.
“They have been very good at home,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “And really, when you look back at a couple of losses we had here, we lose to Charlotte and I thought Charlotte was terrific. They [Charlotte] go down [to UTSA] and lose. We lose to Florida Atlantic here and they go down to San Antonio and lose. They are a team that has played very efficient offensively at home. They put a lot of pressure on you by playing a very fast tempo. We’re going to have to not turn it over and put them in the open court, and hopefully play smart and play well.”
UTEP has its most road wins in a season (seven) since 2009-10 (eight). The Miners are 7-2 on the road. With a win at UTSA, the Miners can tie their most C-USA road victories in a season with seven. They were 7-1 in league road games during the 2009-10 campaign.
Floyd was at a loss to explain why UTEP has been so good away from El Paso in 2013-14.
“I wish we could figure it out,” he said. “There have been a couple of years where we have really struggled on the road. We have just been outstanding other than a half over at Southern Miss. It has all been about defensive intensity and great, great effort on the boards.”
Now the Miners will hope to continue their winning ways on the road, before carrying that blueprint for success into the C-USA Championship March 11-15 at the Haskins Center.
“I would think a great recipe for confidence going into the conference tournament would be two consecutive road wins,” Floyd said. “I view that as a very important part of us trying to get ready and coming back home to play.”