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El Paso, TX — UTEP and NM State will battle for the second time on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m., this time at the Don Haskins Center where the Miners will hope to square the season series at 1-1.
The Miners (3-1) and the Aggies (4-1) were locked in a close contest at the Pan American Center last Friday, before NMSU pulled away down the stretch for an 86-73 victory.
UTEP couldn’t keep out of foul trouble in Las Cruces, and couldn’t keep the Aggies off the boards. It’s clear what the Miners will have to do on Saturday night if they are going to forge a season split for the third straight year.
“We can want everything that we can possibly want, but they are a daunting task when you look at their size, their ability to rebound and the confidence they’re playing with,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “You look at their experience. Daniel Mullings had his way with our best defender [Julian Washburn] in the last game. We’ve got to go out and do a lot of things better than we did in Las Cruces.”
Mullings torched the Miners for 26 points in the first meeting. Sim Bhullar collected 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks. Tshilidzi Nephawe pulled down 12 rebounds as NMSU dominated the glass, 37-23.
“We’ve got to rebound the ball much better, we have to guard the dribble much better, and we have to get back on defense,” Floyd said. “They force you to adjust to what you like to do offensively because they do such a great job of protecting the paint with size, length and strength. All that being said, making some jump shots would help.”
UTEP has confidence after topping Colorado State at the Haskins Center on Tuesday, 82-74. Riding their first winning streak of the season, the Miners will look to keep the momentum rolling as they continue the most difficult stretch of their non-conference schedule. UTEP will join the Battle 4 Atlantis field for Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 28-30).
“Colorado State was a tournament team, New Mexico State was a tournament team, Tennessee is picked third in the SEC, and either Iowa and Xavier projected tournament teams,” Floyd said. “We’ve got a tough stretch, and any win that we can get will be appreciated.”
Saturday’s Miner Legend is Orsten Artis, one of the heroes of the 1965-66 Texas Western national championship team. Artis played for the Miners from 1963-66, appearing in 82 games and averaging 11.4 points and 3.2 rebounds. He scored in double figures in all five 1966 NCAA Tournament games (14.8 ppg), tallying 14 points versus Oklahoma City, 11 versus Cincinnati, 12 versus Kansas, 22 versus Utah and 15 versus Kentucky. Artis was a Helms Foundation All-American in 1966.
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