Following Two Road Losses, Miners Must Regroup Ahead of C-USA Play
After UTEP’s disappointing 91-70 loss to DePaul, men’s basketball head coach Joe Golding was at a loss for words. On the heels of being dismantled 95-70 against NM State just a week prior, the Miners (6-3) are left to regroup ahead of C-USA play.
“Wasn’t a good night,” Golding said following the loss in Chicago on Saturday. “We have things to figure out. Things aren’t right.
“We have to keep going.”
And on Wednesday, their first practice back in El Paso from the trip, the team looked determined to get back on track as they host LA Tech (6-3) on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Don Haskins Center.
"Absolutely," Golding sneered when asked if he was feeling optimistic this week. "“We’re still early in the year. I enjoy coaching this team. We’re figuring this team out. We have 10 new pieces."
In Saturday's loss to DePaul, the Miners led for the first 15 minutes of the game. Then, the Blue Demons went on a 32-6 run that started in the final seven minutes of the first half and trickled into the second. The Miners allowed DePaul to hit 14-of-27 3-point attempts, while only hitting five 3-pointers on their end. Free throws continued to be an issue for this group, as they went 13-of-22 from the charity stripe in the 91-70 loss.
"We got to figure it out," Golding said. "We aren't playing good basketball right now. The start was pretty good. For the other 22 minutes, we didn't. We got to get back to UTEP basketball and what it stands for and what it means defensively. Our guys understand that. It's a new team."
Following seven successful seasons at LA Tech, coach Eric Konkol left this offseason to take the Tulsa job. Talvin Hester took over the program after most recently holding assistant coaching jobs at Texas Tech (2021–22) and LA Tech (2018-21). The Bulldogs have lost all three of their games on the road (Texas Tech, Louisiana and Wyoming), as they are 2-3 overall away from Ruston, LA.
They have a loaded backcourt too. Guard Cobe Williams leads the Bulldogs in scoring at 17.3 points per game, ranking fourth overall in Conference USA. Keaston Willis (12.8 ppg) and Isaiah Crawford (12.1 ppg) also average double figures in scoring for the team. They are third in the league in 3-point percentage (37.6%) with 9.9 made 3's per game.
"They're very similar to NMSU and DePaul," Golding said about LA Tech. "That's been a problem for us. We have to get that fixed. They have good bigs. They have good size... The 3-point line is a huge key."
The Miners currently rank No. 1 in C-USA for their turnover margin (+4), forcing 19.3 turnovers per game on defense. They are tied for first in the league for steals (9.78 per game). However, the Miners are near the bottom of the league in free throw percentage (62.9%) and 3-point field goal percentage (26.5%).
Tae Hardy currently leads the team in scoring at 13.2 points per game (8th in C-USA), while Mario McKinney is second on the team at 11.9 per game (17th in C-USA).
Tip-off between the Bulldogs and the Miners is set for 6 p.m. and can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso with MinerTalk, presented by the Oscar Arrieta Agency, to follow the broadcast. The game will be streamed on C-USA TV.