Semi-final Game 1 of the Conference USA Basketball Tournament
Third seed UTEP v Second seed Tulsa 2:00 pm Friday March 11, 2011
The Don Haskins Center, El Paso, Texas
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Here’s Who Is Involved and How They Got Here
The UTEP Miners
The Miners built a big lead against the Thundering Herd of Marshall in the first half, and then hung on to eventually pull away from a tiring Herd team and finish with a 12 point win on their home court, 77 to 65. The Miners used balance scoring, with six players posting double digits, and a mixture of defenses to keep Marshall’s offense off balance in the win. The third seed Miners will face the second seeded Hurricane in the semi-final game at 2 pm, today.
The Miners finished the regular season with a 23-8 record overall, and 11-5 in conference games. At home, the Miners are 17-2 this season, and 7-1 against conference opponents. The Miners fans make the Don Haskins Center one of the toughest places to play in the conference. Averaging over 8600 per game, the fans can energize the Miners, and intimidate opponents. Expect to see that number to jump to 12,000 per game in the conference tournament, and those 12,000 will be fired up, with a passion for Miners basketball that has given UTEP and El Paso a nationally recognized reputation for a place most teams don’t want to come to.
The Miners finished their regular season with a 59-56 win over the SMU Mustangs at Moody Coliseum. The win gave the Miners an 11-5 (23-8) conference record, tied with the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa (18-12) for second place.
The UTEP Miners were tripped up in their season opener against the University of Pacific 61-66 in front of the first home opener sell out crowd since 1986.
The Miners got back on track, with their first win of the season, and the first win under Head Coach Tim Floyd, when the Miners beat Mercer in their first Legends Classic Tournament game, 87-74. In the Miners second game of the Legends Classic Tournament the Miners used a tough, stingy defense, a patient offense, and free throws to cruise past the Catamounts of Western Carolina, 77-65.
The Miners used a barrage of three point shots in the first half, and 17 made free throws, combined with tough man-to-man defense to take the first round of the annual I-10 Rivalry game against the Aggies of New Mexico State, 73-56 at The Don Haskins Center, in El Paso.
The Miners fell to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 71-61, at the Legends Classic in Atlantic City. UTEP got back on track with a 65-56 win over the Michigan Wolverines to claim the third place spot in the Legends Classic Tournament. The win was to be the beginning of a six game winning streak.
The Miners traveled up I-10 for the rematch with New Mexico State, and came away from the Pan Am Center with a close 74-72 victory. Returning to the Don Haskins Center, the Miners beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Louisiana-Monroe, Texas Tech, and Stephen F. Austin.
The Miners then traveled to Provo, Utah and were pummeled by the Jimmer Fredette led BYU Cougars, 68-89.
Back in El Paso, the Miners won their next 4 games, beating Western New Mexico, Air Force, Sam Houston State, and Tulsa to open Conference USA play.
The Miners’ next game may have been the most exciting game of the season in college basketball. The Miners and the Blazers of UAB traded buzzer beating 3 point shots to extend the game into triple overtime, before the Miners finally fell to the Blazers, 97-100 in Birmingham.
In New Orleans, the Miners beat Tulane. Then, back in El Paso, the Miners beat the Rice Owls. In Houston, the Miners got another win, beating the Houston Cougars. The Miners got their second win of the season over Tulane back in El Paso. Traveling to Tulsa for the rematch, the Miners lost to the Golden Hurricane, 68-69. In Houston, the Miners beat the Owls, and then came back to El Paso to beat SMU. The Miners picked up their sixth loss of the season in Hattiesburg, losing to the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss. The Miners got a win over Houston at the Don Haskins Center, and then lost their next home game to UCF.
Traveling to East Carolina, the Miners lost their eight game of the season to the Pirates. The game included 5 technical fouls called against the Miners, and the ejection of Tim Floyd and immediately following Floyd’s ejection the ejection of Assistant Coach, Phil Johnson.
When the Miners played their next game at the Don Haskins Center, they seemed to take out the previous game’s frustration on the Memphis Tigers, giving the Tigers a 74-47 beat down. Then, the Marshall Thundering Herd came to El Paso, and on Senior’s Night, the senior laden Miners won 82-74.
The Miners will face Tulsa in the Semi-finals of the Conference USA Tournament
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
In Tulsa’s first game of the Conference USA Tournament, the Hurricane out lasted a game Rice Owls team 81-72. Tulsa shot a season high 56% from the field, and eventually wore down the Owls who had played and beat SMU the previous night. The second seed Tulsa win moved them forward to the semi-final game against the third seeded Miners.
Tulsa finished their season with a record of 18-12 overall, and 11-5 in conference play. At home they were 12-4 in all games, and 4-7 away. In conference games Tulsa was 7-1 at home and 4-4 away. On neutral courts they were 3-1.
Tulsa has had a very up and down basketball run this season. They started the season off with a home loss to Appalachian State 86-89. They got back on track with two wins at home against Oral Roberts 83-68, and Missouri State 62-50. Their next three games came in the 76 Classic in Anaheim. They lost the first game to UNLV 71-80, but won the next two, beating Stanford 65-53 and Cal State-Northridge 80-63.
The next two games they played a road game and they lost to Arkansas-Little Rock 67-69 and in state rivals from the Big 12, Oklahoma State 71-54 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, which is not the Hurricane’s home court even though it is in Tulsa.
Back in the Reynolds Center, the Hurricane lost in double overtime to Princeton 78-82, and followed that game with another overtime game, which they won, beating Weber State 81-79.
Their next game took them to Wichita, where they were shocked by Wichita State 79-82.
Back in the Reynolds Center, they beat UT-San Antonio 92-67, and TCU 69-66.
Tulsa began conference play in El Paso, where the Miners picked Tulsa to be their first conference win of the season, 69 to 59. Tulsa returned to their home court, and got their first conference win of the season, beating Rice 75-64.
Tulsa’s next game was in Tempe, where they lost to Arizona State, 59-69. Three days later, UAB was blown away in the Reynolds Center by the Hurricane 78-62. Tulsa’s next two games were on the road where they split, losing to Houston by a score of 57-64, and taking one from Tulane 65-61.
Tulsa returned to the Reynolds center for their next two games. SMU escaped with a one point win, 59-58, and UTEP lost a one point game to the Hurricane 68-69.
Tulsa traveled to Memphis and declawed the Tigers 68-65. Back in Tulsa, they avenged their earlier loss to Houston, beating the Cougars 76-71 in overtime. In Florida, the Hurricane lost a one point game to the Golden Knights 57-58.
The Pirates of East Carolina were blown out of the Reynolds Center by the Hurricane, 86-67. In Dallas, Tulsa got another win, beating SMU 74-66, but in Huntington, the Thundering Herd gave the Hurricane the horns, 79-61. Tulsa won their last three games of the regular season, beating Tulane in Tulsa 66-59, flooding Rice’s paddy in Houston 67-57, and grounding the Eagles of Southern Miss 78-70 in Tulsa.
Key Players For Each Team Are
The Miners use a number of players and lineups depending on their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Having said that, there are four players that average between 30 to 36 minutes per game. Guard, Randy Culpepper is the reigning Conference USA Player of the Year. Guard, Julyan Stone is arguably the best all around player on the team. Culpepper is a prolific scorer, leading the Miners with an average of 19.5 points per game, and Stone is UTEP’s All-Time leader in assists, and the team’s leading rebounder this season, averaging 7.4 rebounds per game.. Both of them play high intensity defense. Culpepper’s quick feet and even quicker hands have allowed him to make 65 steals this season to lead the conference averaging 2.6 steals per game. Stone is a quick guard and at 6′ 7” his height gives other guards fits. Guard, Christian Polk averages almost 33 minutes per game. From the field he shoots at a .429 clip, but from beyond the 3 point line his average actually goes up to .444. Polk is second on the team in scoring average with 11.3 points per game. Forward, Jeremy Williams is third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.7 points per game, and second on the team in rebounding, averaging 5.4 per game. Williams can also step out beyond the three point line, shooting .409 from there. In the paint, the Miners have three players that see the most minutes, and each give Coach Floyd’s team a different look. Gabe McCulley is a 6′ 7” Guard/Forward who can grab rebounds and use his quickness inside to score, or step outside and hit the three point shot. Freshman, John Bohannon, the Miners 6′ 10” Center averages 5.5 points per game, and 4.9 rebounds per game in the 19.4 minutes per game he averages. Big Claude Britton, a 6′ 8” , 280 pound Center sees limited playing time due to an asthma condition, but when he is in the game he is a powerful force down low. The big man has a soft shooting touch, and can put up points in a hurry, and provide plenty of muscle to move opposing team’s big men around.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Justin Hurtt is the Hurricane’s big gun. He averages 20.1 points per game. Tulsa’s big man, center Steven Idlet averages 12 points, and 6.4 rebounds per game. Jordan Clarkson and Scottie Haralson average 11.5 and 11 points per game, respectively.
How It Will Turn Out
These two teams have a history of battling each other, and today’s game figures to be the same as the rest. Probably fairly equally matched, it will come down to two things. First, is which team will be able to impose their will on the other, and maintain their composure and discipline. Mental toughness will be huge, because the pressure will be intense. Secondly, the Miners will have a big home court advantage. The Miners fans provide their team with energy on both sides of the ball, and the fans in the Don Haskins Center will be way up for this one. Expect this one to be a back and forth affair, a game with two heavy weights pounding away at each other. In the end, the Miners will prevail. Home court advantage is real, and the Miners home court is a real advantage.
Final score: Miners 71 Tulsa 66