So I emailed a few questions over to Miner Rush, our friends over at the UTEP SBNation blog ahead of the basketball game on Friday (January 2nd).
1. Give the casual UNT fan a quick intro to UTEP — How do you feel about your non conference results?
MR: I have mixed feelings about the non-conference results, we’ve seen some good, some bad, but despite a tough OOC schedule, the Miners are right where they should be. As easily as this can be said about any team, the Miners have left some things on the floor in certain games where you can argue the Miners were one or two plays away from sitting at 10-2 or even 12-0.
Vince Hunter has been something special, but the rest of the team has struggled with consistency, though everyone has had a moment of shine so far. The biggest issue is the slow offensive starts UTEP has been getting off to, turnovers, and perimeter defense have been things coach Floyd has openly been addressing as well.
Two guys to keep an eye on are Omega Harris, and Matt Willms, who have both been getting better and better over the last seven games. UTEP has also shown the ability to shut down the other teams leading scorer, and based off of last year’s C-USA results in doing just that, I would expect that mantra to remain the same this year, and on Friday.
2. How does UTEP matchup with NT’s zone?
MR: The Miners saw 40 minutes of zone in an exhibition against Sul Ross on Tuesday night, and showed the proper patience, and decent shooting from outside the paint needed to bust it. More than ball movement, and sets I also think UTEP’s defense can help create open floor chances where attacking a zone is not an issue, but the Miners have been inconsistent in the open floor at times so that is also something to watch.
UTEP’s best passers against a zone are big men Cedrick Lang and Matt Willms, if they can make good decisions in the high-low game, and Willms can stretch the defense with 14-17 foot jumpers, that is the best way UTEP can break down the zone.
3. Are you good enough to win CUSA?
MR: There is no question this team is good and deep enough, the bigger question is can they be consistent enough to win the conference. At times this team looks like a legit top-25 team, then in other stretches they make you wanna pull out your hair. Typical Floyd teams are like this in the early portions of seasons, but once this team turns the consistency corner, particularly in guard play, it will be safer to give a confident yes on this.
4. Who on NT gives you the most matchup problems?
MR: I think Washburn can hold down Jordan Williams, and Lang will have something physical for Voss, but not letting Maurice Aniefiok and T.J Taylor dictate the game in the open floor is what worries me.
UTEP has struggled with perimeter defense, and getting back in transition in stretches as they have been adjusting young guards into the system, and if Aniefoik is able get going from deep, UTEP will struggle getting stops consistently.
Another match up issue could be controlling Voss, Combs, and Williams on the boards. Someone is going to have to help Vince Hunter rebound on both ends, which guys like Lang and Willms will have to use their physicality to keep athletes like Williams, and Combs stay off the glass.
5. At their best, UTEP wins with _____?
MR: Patience and good decision making against the zone, Vince Hunter rebounding everything that comes his way, and him staying out of foul trouble. When Hunter controls the defensive glass, he is usually controlling the paint on the other end. Guys feed off his energy, and when Vince is rebounding at a high level, UTEP usually can control the game as everything seems to click when that happens.
6. At their worst, UTEP loses because of ______?
MR: Hunter is in foul trouble, and the Miners turn it over more than ten times or gets off to a slow start on both ends. It’s happened a few times this year where UTEP will commit five turnovers before their first five field goals in the first five minutes of a game. When UTEP gets off to cold starts, its been the defense and UTEP’s length against smaller lineups that gets them back it in, but this game is scary because of the Mean Green’s guard led ability to execute in the open floor off turnovers.