This will be a true test for this young Aggie team. The last time they went into hostile territory--the Money Pit---it didn't work out. The shorthanded Aggies put a lot of energy into the game against the Lobos Saturday night and the downtrodden Miners can right their listing boat with a big rivalry win tonight.
I watched the utep and unm game and utep looked awful. They live and die by the three and when hot they can score in bunches. Stopping their guards is going to be key tonight. I wasn’t impressed with their bigs, that 7’ looked slow and clumsy.
I would love to see Wilkins and Chuha put up a double double tonight. I also am looking for more production from Haley, that three against unm should have given him some confidence.
It sucks to have Ndir hurt but I love the starting five with Baker, Huggins, Chuha, Haley, and Wilkins.
Miners, Aggies renew hardwood rivalry Bill Knight , El Paso Times
One team is soaring, one team is scuffling.
Of course, the season is young and when UTEP and New Mexico State get together for some hoops, you can do the cliche thing — toss out records.
The Miners and Aggies will play some basketball Tuesday night in the Don Haskins Center ... for the 212th time. According to UTEP record books, NMSU has won 108 times, UTEP 103. It began in 1914 when Woodrow Wilson was in the White House, when the guns of World War I were just beginning to rumble but a good three years before the United States would enter the war.
Now, in 2016, it is another year, another dose of the fun and exhilaration and adrenaline that this rivalry drops on El Paso and Las Cruces. New Mexico State, under new coach Paul Weir, is 8-2 and the Aggies have won six straight. That includes an 84-71 thumping of rival New Mexico Saturday night in the Pan American Center. The Aggies opened with a pair of losses, one at Colorado State and a 72-59 setback to New Mexico back on Nov. 16 in Albuquerque.
Now, though, they are soaring on the wings of that six game winning streak.
The Miners are 2-5 and have lost four straight. But the Miners are coming off an encouraging loss — a 78-77 heartbreaking setback to New Mexico last Wednesday night in Albuquerque. UTEP has neutral site losses to Wake Forest and Mississippi State, that road loss to New Mexico and a pair of disappointing home losses to two directions in Louisiana — Southeastern Louisiana and Northwestern State.
"We have had to come through some adversity," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. "Losing a key player (Terry Winn quit the team) and having to suspend a key player (leading scorer Omega Harris was suspended for the Northwestern State game for missing class). We've practiced hard and we feel we've gotten better. We had one young man who got his head up and, even though we lost, played very well."
Miner freshman Deon Barrett scored 25 points in the second half against New Mexico and was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Week this week
"Two things can happen," Floyd said with a chuckle. "One, he might not make a basket the rest of the year or two, he will come out and play with a lot of confidence. Naturally, we are hoping for the latter. Our guys who have been here understand the intensity of this rivalry. New Mexico State has another good basketball team. They have a couple of really good guards. (Ian) Baker came in and just destroyed us last year. They are excellent in transition, they are doing a terrific job defensively they have size and length. Looks like an NCAA Tournament team."
The Aggies are led by Baker, who scored 26 points against the Lobos Saturday and was named the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Week. The 6-foot guard scored 26 and 22 points against the Miners in a pair of Aggie wins last year. Eli Chuha, 6-7, is third in the WAC in rebounding at 7.3 per game and 6-5 Jemerrio Jones is fifth in the WAC at ;6.7 rebounds per game. Sidy N'dir, a 6-2 guard, averages 13.7 points a game and Braxton Huggins, a 6-3 guard, averages 12.9 points a game.
NMSU won both these rivalry dances a year ago, taking a 73-53 win in the Haskins Center and a 73-59 win in the Pan American Center. Weir, though, knows this is a new season, a new chapter in this old rivalry.
"UTEP has good guard play and can shoot the 3-pointer really well," Weir said. "They have good players in the post as well. UTEP has had almost a week to prepare and we know we will get their best effort. Coach Floyd does a great job at UTEP. They change up their defenses and we have been preparing for that. We're not experts at solving their defenses but playing them twice a year gives us a sense of comfort playing against them."
The Miners are led by Harris at 16.7 points a game, eighth best in Conference USA, and point guard Dominic Artis, whose 7.9 assist per game is third in the nation. Artis is also averaging 15.3 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds a game. Matt Willms, UTEP's 7-1 junior, is playing with a mask over his broken nose. Willms is averaging 11.0 points and 4.9 rebounds a game.
The Miners are hoping they are on the verge of ending their losing streak.
"It was definitely encouraging," Artis said of the Albuquerque near miss. "You can see we are still taking steps, still getting better. But, in the end, it's about wins and losses and we've got to get wins. This rivalry is fun and we know it means a lot to El Paso, to all UTEP fans."
Barrett, who is playing in his first rivalry game at UTEP, said, "Rivalries are always fun. They just bring out the best in both teams and in the crowd. We're building, getting better every day. We want to go out and play good sound defense, play UTEP basketball."
This thing began in 1914, it is going strong in 2016 and it will probably be going strong in 3016.
It is, quite simply, a fun and intense night on the basketball schedule.
Bill Knight may be reached at 546-6171; email@example.com; @BillKnightept on Twitter.