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Cougars Square Off With Culpepper, Miners

Conference USA action is featured at the Don Haskins Center tonight as the Miners of Texas-El Paso play host to the Houston Cougars.

Houston fell its last time out, 65-51, after hosting SMU this past Wednesday evening. The loss was the Cougars' sixth in their last seven appearances, which includes two overtimes defeats.

Texas-El Paso is also coming off of a loss after falling to Southern Miss by a 64-51 margin on the road on Wednesday. Prior to the loss, the Miners were winners of six of their previous seven affairs.

Texas-El Paso currently holds an 11-8 lead in the all-time series between these teams, including a well-fought 57-52 victory in Houston that took place on January 22nd.

Houston made a valiant effort but was ultimately unable to overcome the Mustangs as the Cougars fell 65-51 at home on Wednesday. Houston's defense struggled throughout the entire affair as SMU finished with a 56.8 shooting percentage. The Mustangs shot 62.5 percent in the opening half to take a 39-32 lead over Houston into the intermission. SMU scored the first bucket to start the second half, but the Cougars responded with a 7-0 spurt to move to within three points. However, that would be the closest Houston would get to toppling SMU as the Cougars were held scoreless all the way until the final 39 seconds of the contest. Senior forward Maurice McNeil led Houston by netting 14 points in the loss, while junior guard Darian Thibodeaux added 12.

Texas-El Paso went stale down the stretch in last Wednesday's disappointing 64-51 loss at Southern Miss, being outscored 11-1 to end the game. The Miners seemed to be in control of the affair for the majority of the second half. After taking a slim 29-26 advantage into the break while holding the Eagles to just 37.9 percent shooting, UTEP stretched its lead to 41-28 at one point in the second stanza. The Miners then proceeded to give up 36 of the next 46 points scored in the contest en route to the devastating conference loss. Senior center Claude Britton scored a game-high 21 points for UTEP, while team leading scorer Randy Culpepper netted 14. The senior guard has been exceptional this season, contributing 18.8 ppg for the Miners.

The Miners exhibit a more talented and explosive roster, and after being up- ended in devastating fashion their last time out, expect UTEP to come into this affair and successfully defend home court.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas-El Paso 80, Houston 66

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.