LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- – Three weeks after UTEP knocked off New Mexico State in the Don Haskins Center, the I-10 rivals will lace ‘em up again, this time at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces. The Miners (5-0) and the Aggies (4-4) will meet for the 219th time on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
NMSU held a big pep rally ahead of the game on Monday midday in the Pan American Center. The Aggies' pep band, cheerleaders, dance team and mascot were on hand along with UTEP's spirit squad and mascot to drum up attention for round two of the annual hoops rivalry.
In the first matchup between the teams on Nov. 12, the Miners pulled away from a slim 28-25 halftime lead and topped the Aggies, 65-50, as junior forward Bryson Williams scored 14 of his 19 points in the final 20 minutes.
The Miners face the greatest of challenges on Tuesday as they try to win in Las Cruces and sweep the Aggies for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
“I told our guys, we’re going to go play in a very hostile environment and a hornet’s nest,” UTEP head coach Rodney Terry said. “We’re going to play a team that’s extremely eager and excited to play us, and we’re going to have to be excited and eager to go on the road and compete against a really good team on their home court.”
UTEP remains unbeaten with its most recent win being a 91-71 victory over Division II East Central on the day before Thanksgiving. But UTEP has done all its damage in the Don Haskins Center this season, where the Miners won five games by an average of 15 points. Now they’ll take their act on the road.
NMSU, meanwhile, has gone 3-3 since the setback at UTEP. The Aggies just returned from the Cayman Islands, where they beat Colorado State (78-70 in overtime) and South Florida (65-45) and lost to George Mason (68-64) in the championship game of the Cayman Islands Classic. NMSU is 2-1 at home this season, with wins over Western New Mexico (92-46) and Southern (79-63) and a loss to I-25 rival New Mexico (78-77).
The teams should look similar to the first matchup in El Paso, except the Miners now have the services of sophomore guard Kaden Archie. The former four-star recruit and TCU transfer saw his first action of the season versus East Central, picking up seven points, an assist and a steal in 24 reserve minutes. NMSU has played all season without a pair of returning starters in the backcourt, seniors Clayton Henry and A.J. Harris. Senior guard Trevelin Queen leads the Aggies in scoring (16.6 ppg) and put 21 points on the board versus the Miners on Nov. 12.
"It's about the same as it's been," New Mexico State head coach Chris Jans said. "Clayton and AJ won't be back until conference season rolls around, so we're in the same boat that we have been in."