One-on-one with UTEP’s Joe Golding; Miners prepare for C-USA Tournament
EL PASO, Texas - The No. 9 seeded UTEP men’s basketball team (14-17) will lock up against No. 8 seeded WKU (16-15) in the opening round of the 2023 Conference USA Championships presented by TotalCare on Court “A” at 4:30 p.m. MT/5:30 pm. CT at The Star in Frisco, Texas, on Wednesday.
Mattress Firm is the Presenting Sponsor of UTEP Men’s Basketball.
The victor will advance to face top seed and 2023 C-USA regular-season champion (RV) Florida Atlantic on “Court A” at 4:30 p.m. MT/5:30 p.m. CT Thursday.
The Miners enter on a positive note after knocking off fourth-place Middle Tennessee, 77-65, in their regular-season finale on “Senior Day” on March 4. It marked the fourth consecutive “Senior Day” win for the Orange and Blue.
The Hilltoppers went 1-1 last week, slipping past UTEP at the Don Haskins Center, 73-68, on March 2 before being trounced, 67-33, at second-place North Texas on March 4.
This is the third meeting on the season between the programs, with WKU also previously posting a five-point win at home (74-69) on Feb. 4.
It is the first match-up between the Miners and Toppers at the C-USA Championships. UTEP is 1-2 all time as a No. 9 seed, with all three contests occurring when it was a member of the WAC (1996 & 2003).
The Orange and Blue are 3-4 in the first round of league tournaments, including 1-0 under head coach Joe Golding.
Last season, the (4W) Miners knocked off (5E) Old Dominion, 74-64, in the opening round before bowing out to (1E) Middle Tennessee in OT, 66-59, in the quarterfinals.
The contest against WKU is the first on a neutral site this season for UTEP while the Toppers compiled a record of 2-1 in neutral-site tilts in 2022-23. Jon Teicher (42nd year) and Steve Yellen (20th year) will be on the call on “The Home of UTEP Basketball” 600 ESPN El Paso. It will also stream nationwide on ESPN+, with Ron Thulin (PXP) and Colin Boddicker (analyst) handling the broadcast.
UTEP IN THE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
UTEP is 41-31 all time in conference tournament play (includes a forfeit against Hawaii in the 1996 WAC Tournament.
The Miners won the WAC Tournament in 1984, 1986, 1989, 1990 and 2005.
They have 12 total appearances in the championship contest, including a pair (2010, 2011) since joining C-USA.
UTEP IN THE C-USA TOURNAMENT
UTEP is 14-16 in C-USA Tournament games, including going 1-1 last year to secure its first victory in the event since the 2017 tournament.
It was also the initial triumph at the event since it moved to The Star in Frisco, Texas.
The Miners advanced to the semifinals in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 and the finals in 2010 and 2011.
The Orange and Blue will be vying to post triumphs in consecutive years at the league’s pinnacle event for the first time since an eight-year stretch (2010 through 2017).
SERIES HISTORY: WKU LEADS, 8-1
WKU leads the series, 8-1, and has won six straight contests against the Miners.
The Toppers claimed both meetings this year, with each decided by five points.
WKU held off UTEP, 74-69, in Bowling Green, Ky., on Feb. 4 while slipping past the Orange and Blue, 73-68, at the Haskins Center on March 2.
Prior to this season, the two programs had not faced each other more than once in a campaign.
The match-ups in 2022-23 were also the first between the foes in three years.
UTEP’s lone win in the series came in OT in front of a capacity crowd as part of the 50-year celebration of the Miners winning the 1966 NCAA Championship vs. Kentucky, 72-65.
GET TO KNOW WKU
WKU went 16-15 in the regular season, including 8-12 in league play, to garner the No. 8 seed in the 2023 Conference USA Championships presented by TotalCare.
The Toppers had been predicted to finish in second place in the league’s preseason poll and even received a first-place vote.
Dayvion McKnight, Emmanuel Akot and Jamarion Sharp were all Preseason All C-USA team selections and should have a chance at garnering some 2023 C-USA Postseason accolades as well.
The Hilltoppers were 2-4 over their final six games, but one of those wins came at the expense of the Miners, 73-68, at the Don Haskins Center on March 2.
That allowed WKU to complete the season sweep with the Orange and Blue, with each contest decided by five points.
WKU accounts for 72.0 points per game (sixth C-USA), which is helped by it committing only 11.6 turnovers per contest (second C-USA/81st NCAA).
McKnight sets the tone from a scoring standpoint with 16.5 ppg (fifth C-USA). Akot (10.1 ppg) is also in double figures while four other active players contribute at least 7.0 ppg.
The Toppers shoot the 3-point shot well (36.5-fourth C-USA/64th NCAA), in addition to dishing out 12.8 assists per game (fifth C-USA).
They allow 70.6 ppg (seventh C-USA), but points in the paint are at a premium with the 7-5 Sharp leading the country in both total blocked shots (127) and blocks per game (4.23).
That helps WKU sit atop C-USA and rank fifth nationally with 5.4 blocks per game.
They are second-to-last in the league in rebounding margin (-1.9-280th NCAA) but won the battle of the boards in both tilts against the Miners this season.
They are also 10th in C-USA at 3-point percentage defense (36.2-310th), something UTEP took advantage of in each of the games in the regular season by making 19 combined treys vs. the Toppers.
Notable university alumni include Romeo Crennel (former head coach of the Cleveland Browns & KC Chiefs), the late Duncan Hines (pioneer of restaurant ratings for travelers) and the late Cordell Hull (Secretary of State under FDR