DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 22nd, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hofheinz Pavilion (8,479) -- Houston, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: UTEP 12-1, Houston 9-1. Away Record: UTEP 2-2, Houston 2-5. Neutral Record: UTEP 1-1, Houston 0-0. Conference Record: UTEP 3-1, Houston 3-1. Series Record: UTEP leads, 10-8.
GAME NOTES: A couple of surging Conference USA teams are set to tangle tonight at Hofheinz Pavilion, as the Houston Cougars play host to the Texas-El Paso Miners.
UTEP is off to a 3-1 start in league play and has won 12 of its last 14 games overall. The Miners have been idle since a 66-43 win over Rice last Saturday, their second straight victory by double digits. Following this tilt, they'll return home to face Tulane Wednesday night.
Houston is also 3-1 in C-USA action thanks to three straight victories entering tonight's bout. The Cougars are coming off a 64-57 win over Tulsa Wednesday night. Hofheinz Pavilion has been kind to the Cougars this season, as they have won nine of their 10 home games.
UTEP owns a slim 10-8 series edge, although UH has won five of the six all- time meetings in Houston.
The Miners raced out to an early lead against Rice and never looked back, as they led by as many as 31 late in the second half en route to their 12th straight home victory. Jeremy Williams scored a team-high 14 points in the win, while Randy Culpepper scored 12 and Christian Polk finished with 11. Julyan Stone had just four points to go along with his team-high 10 rebounds, although he also dished out five assists to break the C-USA career assists record (633). UTEP was able to pull away by holding Rice to one point during the first eight and a half minutes of the second half. One of the biggest keys to victory was UTEP's 22-2 advantage in points off turnovers for the game. Defensively, the Miners were able to limit Owls' leading scorer Arsalan Kazemi (17.5 ppg) to just one field goal. On the season, Culpepper leads the squad with 19.7 ppg, while Polk (12.0 ppg) and Williams (10.5 ppg) have also made key contributions.
Sharpshooter Adam Brown headlines the Cougars with 14.5 ppg. Brown leads the team with 34 three-pointers and is shooting 47.2 percent from the perimeter on the season. Down low, Maurice McNeil is tallying 12.9 points and a team-best 8.3 rebounds per game, while Kendrick Washington is averaging 11.2 points and 6.0 boards. McNeil and Washington are both shooting well over 50 percent from the floor. UH took over the lead with just under four minutes to play against Tulsa, then put the game away with a 6-0 run down the stretch. UH was able to win despite a sub-par 38-percent shooting effort from the floor in addition to being out-rebounded by seven boards. But the Cougars took care of the other key areas, knocking down 21-of-29 free throws and committing just six turnovers for the game. Zamal Nixon led four players in double figures with 14 points as he went a perfect 12-of-12 from the foul line.
This is a big game for both teams, but give a slight edge to the Cougars who have won three in a row and are very tough to beat at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Houston 72, Texas-El Paso 69