The Miners step into Minges Coliseum riding a six-game winning streak, which has earned them a share of first place in the conference. The Pirates, on the other hand, are still looking to get back on track after dropping their first six conference games. They haven't won a game at home yet in 2014.
ECU's once-potent offense seemed to return to form against UAB, though. The Pirates' 74 points was the most they scored since their Jan. 2 79-71 victory over Campbell, which happened to be the last win they claimed before Saturday.
Paris Roberts-Campbell led the squad in scoring with 21 points. Caleb White also had a strong showing with 17 points and Akeem Richmond contributed another 13. The three of them combined for nine three pointers—each hitting three apiece. The team surpassed the 40-percent mark from the arc for the first time in conference play and improved its record to 10-1 when doing so.
UTEP has some key scorers to match the likes of Richmond and Roberts-Campbell. Mckenzie Moore leads the Miners with 13.1 points per game and has three other teammates averaging in double figures. They're also shooting 47.5 percent from the field, which is the best in C-USA.
With the limited personnel ECU has, head coach Jeff Lebo has been looking for White to be a complementary scorer for the team. Based on how he performed on the road trip, the freshman forward seems to have adapted to that role nicely. In addition to his 17 points against UAB, White led the Pirates with 18 points in their 84-67 loss to Middle Tennessee.
"It's really important because teams now are starting to key in on [Richmond] and also Paris a little bit now," said White. "It's vital for me to step up and be consistent."
ECU will need consistency from White to overcome UTEP's size and defensive dominance. The Miners have held opponents to shooting 38 percent from the field, which is the best scoring defense in the league. On top of that, their opponents have been held to 28.7 percent from three-point range.
The Pirates are going to struggle if they can't score from the perimeter. UTEP's size is going to make it hard for ECU to penetrate and get open down low. UTEP has six players over 6-foot-7 to ECU's two—including two 6-foot-11 and a 7-foot-1 freshman.
"Nothing really different," said White about combating UTEP's size. "It's just going at their body, playing hard, and taking smarter shots. Maybe sometimes using a put up or a floater instead of going all the way."
Even so, UTEP may not have much of a leg up on the rebounding battle. After all, UAB was one of the nation's elite rebounding teams and only outrebounded by four.
ECU will hope to be a little luckier than in the last few years. The last time the Pirates met UTEP, Miguel Paul drove in with a layup to take a two-point lead with 4.4 seconds left only for McKenzie Moore to hit a three at the buzzer for the win.
Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. in Minges. The game will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1 and can also be followed on Twitter @InsideECUSports.