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One-on-one with Joe Golding as shorthanded UTEP prepares for two-game conference homestand

EL PASO, Texas - It's no question that UTEP is fighting for head coach Joe Golding to begin his first year in charge.

But his team will need to fight even harder over their upcoming two-game C-USA homestand with key contributors missing out.

The Miners (7-6, 0-1) are set to welcome in Louisiana Tech on Thursday night followed by another home game vs. Southern Mississippi on Saturday night.

Golding and the Miners have kept their head above water all season, as the Miners have yet to fall below .500 on the season, but the results of the next two home games could set the tone for the rest of the year.

Redshirt sophomore guard Keonte Kennedy will not play in either of this weekend's contests as he continues to nurse a foot injury suffered in a December 22nd loss to Bradley. Kennedy is considered week-to-week moving forward.

The loss of Kennedy will be tough to overcome for the Miners, as the Austin, TX native currently is second on the team in scoring (13.3 ppg) and leads the team in rebounding (5.3). He is also one of the team's best defenders.

Louisiana Tech (11-3, 2-0 C-USA) will pose a major problem for the Miners, as they are currently second in the conference in points per game with just over 80.

Leading the Bulldogs is star forward Kenneth Lofton Jr. who averages 17.5 points per game along with 9.9 rebounds per game. Lofton Jr. is on the Naismith Trophy Watch List and was the 2020-21 C-USA freshman of the year.

Keeping Lofton's 6'7, 275 lb frame off the low block will be difficult for the Miners, who rank in the bottom half of the conference in rebounding margin.

Saturday's home tilt vs. Southern Mississippi will be more winnable on paper, as the Golden Eagles (4-8) have lost their last six games. Southern Mississippi had their first two C-USA games postponed.

Nate Ryan

Nate Ryan is an ABC-7 sports anchor/reporter.

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