The Miners have won three straight non-conference games for the first time since November of the 2015 season.

Last week:

12/19 vs Incarnate Word

It wasn’t pretty but they got the job done. UTEP played without Wilms, Osborne, and Wade but were able to hold on late for a 72-66 win. Tirus Smith was the player of the game with a season high of 15 points and 6 rebounds. The Miners need that boost from him as Frazier was held scoreless until the final six minutes of the game. Paul Thomas probably had his best game of the year (16 pts/8 rbs) that included a thunderous put back dunk. Kobe Magee also scored in double figures (12pts) for the second time in three games.

The Good:

•Tirus Smith. Smith established himself inside the paint and was a huge spark off the bench
•Bench scoring continues. With Smith scoring in double figures, it marked the 6th different Miner to score in double digits off the bench.
•Kobe. The freshman has averaged 9.3 PPG in his last three games.
•Bobby Braswell. After Phil Johnson got ejected the Miners went to a 1-2-2 zone defense that caused UIW some trouble down the stretch.

The Bad:

•Injuries. Wilms reinjured his wrist and is out for another 2-3 weeks and Osborne did not play vs Incarnate Word due to sickness.
•Free Throws. After shooting 21-22 from the free throw line in their last game, the Miners shot 12-23 for 52%.
•Turnovers. The Miners only committed 18 turnovers after only committing 5 in their last game.

Weekly Facts:

•Opposing teams have shot 62% from the free throw line versus the Miners, ranking 2nd lowest in the country.

•Miners are have had the 3rd fewest shots blocked in the country (14).

•Omega Harris is now 23rd on the all-time scoring list.

•Miners continue to struggle in the assist department, ranking 341 out of 351.

The Week Ahead:

12/21 vs Howard (2-10)
The Miners will look to win their fourth straight game versus the Bison. They are led by freshman RJ Cole (20.4ppg) and Sophomore Charles Williams (18ppg). Cole ranks 4th in the country in minute’s played this season and both Cole and Williams are in the top 5 of the NCAA ion field goal attempts. It’s safe to safe they two are the key for Howard and will be the focal point of UTEP’s defense.

12/22 vs UNC Wilmington/North Dakota State
Miners will play the winner/loser depending on the game vs Howard.

Final Thoughts:

Miners have improved to 4-6 overall and are on the verge of getting to .500 right before conference play. They have taken steps in the right direction since Floyd retired and can’t afford a setback this week versus Howard or UNC Wilmington/North Dakota State. UTEP hopes to get Matt Wilms back for the conference opener versus North Texas on 12/28, a game in which Keith Frazier should be hyped for against his former team.

As the Miners continue to figure things out, look to see if they can improve their offensive tempo and maybe throw that 1-2-2 defense at opponents sporadically.

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