El Paso, TX — The 2013-14 UTEP men’s basketball season with get underway on Saturday as the Miners will face Loyola (New Orleans) at 7 p.m. in the Don Haskins Center.
A season opener ticket special is in place, with all seats either $8 or $10. Fans can call 747-5234 to purchase tickets, and season tickets (starting at $160) are still available by calling 747-6150.
The Miners thumped Southeastern Oklahoma State in an exhibition game on Saturday, and will take on an NAIA Division I program that lost 103-74 at Tulane the following night.
“I think that the scrimmage game [on Oct. 26] helped us playing in front of fans,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “I think the exhibition game helped us playing with the lights on. Hopefully we’ll play with some energy. I think our guys are certainly looking forward to it.”
The Miners may get junior guard McKenzie Moore back on Saturday. The status of junior forward Cedrick Lang is less clear.
“McKenzie is back,” Floyd said. “I wouldn’t call [him] 100 percent. But he wants to be back out there. He has had some ankle issues. I think he smells the start of the season and he’s trying to get himself back on the court and ready to go.
“Cedrick is still out. He still has a concussion. He’ll be reviewed again tomorrow. We’ll get an update again tomorrow. He’s still having severe migraines. We’re looking at re-evaluating his situation on Thursday to see where he is and whether or not he’ll play on Saturday.”
The Wolf Pack returns 12 of 13 players from last year’s team, including three starters. Loyola’s top returning scorer, senior forward Robert Lovaglio, is out for the season due to injury. He averaged 19.7 ppg in 2012-13 en route to being named an NAIA Third Team All-American. SSAC All-Tournament and SSAC All-Division honoree McCall Tomeny averaged 15.4 points and a team best 7.1 rebounds as a sophomore last season. Also back is junior point guard Kyle Simmons, who led the squad in steals and assists last season while averaging 9.1 points per game.
“Their coach [Dr. Michael Giorlando] is a guy I’m very familiar with,” Floyd said. “He worked with me at New Orleans. When I went to Iowa State, he worked at LSU and was an assistant with their Final Four team. They’ve got a Division I program with a lot of great students. They’ve got a storied history going back to the 1950’s and 1960’s and they’re trying to restore that. He’s dealing with a lot of injuries that are impacting his roster, but they’ll play very disciplined basketball.”
Floyd liked his team’s effort in Saturday’s exhibition, and singled out the performance of his returning guards thus far.
“I think our backcourt has remained steady and that was certainly a big question going in,” Floyd said. “C.J. [Cooper] and McKenzie are guys that have a lot of pride, and Jalen Ragland has played a lot of minutes. Both of them were hoping to play this year but knew there was going to be strong competition. Now they are going to play. I think they’ve been really solid, and they’re going to relish the opportunity that they have.”