It has been a busy week for UTEP basketball and it’s about to get even busier in the next few days. As the team tries to move on from the sudden retirement of Coach Tim Floyd, NMSU comes to town tomorrow night and New Mexico on Saturday night.
UTEP played a decent game vs NMSU. Obviously it wasn’t enough to get the win but you saw some bright spots in the freshman group. Gilyard and Tirus Smith gave some flashes of potential and then some flashes of being freshman. Gilyard was responsible for 5 of the Miners 11 turnovers in the game. Trey Wade missed the game with a hyperextended knee. The loss of Matt Wilms has put a big question mark on what to expect from the front court.
On Monday night, UTEP got run out of the gym in the first half versus Lamar. The Red Birds came out shooting straight fire from three-point land and never really gave the Miners a chance to get back into the game until UTEP cut it to single digits in the final minute.
•Evan Gilyard. Over the past two games the freshman point guard has averaged 11.5 PPG and 3.5 RPG. He had 9 points in 10 minutes versus Lamar, despite not playing in the second half.
•Trey Wade. He only missed one game and came back versus Lamar to lead the team in scoring with 13 points in 20 minutes of action.
•Shooting. The Miners have had some bad shooting from their best players to open the season. In the past two games Omega and Frazier are a combined 14/49 shooting from the field (28.5%). As a team the Miners shot 35.8% versus NMSU and Lamar.
•3 point defense. Each team the Miners have faced this season has made more than eight three-pointers. The Miners have made 37 three’s this season compared to 55 for the opponents.
The week ahead:
Thursday (11/30) vs NMSU:
The Miners will try to avoid a season sweep by the Aggies for the third consecutive season. In the first matchup last week, UTEP kept it close until the Aggies used a run mid way through the second half to extend their lead and never gave it up. Miners will have to do a better job on only giving one shot per possession and limiting NMSU’s offensive rebounds. Frazier and Omega need to have probably their best games together to give the Miners a shot and as in every game this year our front court needs to stay out of foul trouble.
Saturday (12/2) vs UNM
The Lobos (2-4) come into town for the first time since 2008 and are led by head coach Paul Weir. The Lobos currently have lost 4 straight. Former WKU player Chris McNeal leads the Lobos averaging 17.2 PPG while 6’7” Sam Longwood is averaging 16 PPG. Lobos like the pressure the ball with a full court press and force 21 turnovers a game.
•UTEP is scoring 59.8 PPG versus Division 1 opponents so far, ranking them 346 out of 351 schools. Only Coppin St, Mississippi Valley St, Arkansas Pine-Bluff, South Carolina St, and Maryland Eastern-Shore are worse.
•Omega currently ranks 28th on the all-time scoring list.
•Miners have had double digit turnovers in each game this season.
•The 6 free throw attempts vs Lamar were the fewest in a game for the Miners since the 2013-14 season vs ECU when they shot 5.
I think it has been a weekly thing and something that a lot of Miner fans have asked for but the biggest change interim coach Phil Johnson should make is to the offense. Miners should stop running so many half-court set plays and have the guards dictate the tempo.
It will be interesting to see how the players continue the season without Tim Floyd but I suspect that they’ll be playing with a little bit of a bigger chip on their shoulder this week and for the rest of the year. Hopefully that translates to better play and more wins.