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A UTEP basketball team that has been home for the last five weeks will play only its second road game of the season on Wednesday. The Miners (6-5), winners of five of their last six games, will take on a red-hot Colorado State squad at 8 p.m. MT in Fort Collins.
The game will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.
The Rams (11-2) ran their winning streak to five games with an 80-55 rout of Adams State on Saturday. Colorado State is 7-0 at home – with an average margin of victory of 20.9 points – and has reeled off 20 consecutive wins at Moby Arena.
This Colorado State team looks a lot like last year’s 20-12 club that won at UTEP (56-53) and played in the NCAA Tournament. The top four scorers return. The Rams have also added a trio of impact transfers in 6-10 forward/center Colton Iverson (Minnesota), 6-4 guard Daniel Bejarano (Arizona) and 6-4 guard Jon Octeus (Wabash Valley College). Iverson leads the team in scoring (14.5 ppg) and ranks second in rebounding (8.9 rpg). Bejarano and Octeus are contributing 6.6 ppg and 4.5 ppg respectively off the bench.
Mainstays Dorian Green (12.9 ppg), Greg Smith (12.0 ppg), Pierce Hornung (10.2 ppg) and Wes Eikmeier (9.9 ppg) have combined to average 45 points per game. The Rams’ top five scorers are all seniors.
The biggest difference between last year’s Colorado State team and this year’s is the man on the bench. Larry Eustachy took over after Tim Miles left for Nebraska and instilled the staples that UTEP fans came to expect from his Southern Miss teams – defense, rebounding and toughness. The Rams lead the nation in rebound margin (+14.2 ppg) and are holding opponents to a .387 field goal percentage and 59.3 points per game.
“They’re the same team they were a year ago. They shoot the ball very well,” said UTEP assistant coach Phil Johnson. “They have added Colton Iverson, which changes their team for the bigger. They’re one of the best rebounding teams in the country, which has been our downfall. They’re +15 on the boards this year and that is coach Eustachy’s emphasis. His teams always rebound well. Iverson has been a real presence for them and Hornung has come out of nowhere to average almost 11 rebounds per game.”
UTEP has been a much-improved team since adding Konner Tucker and McKenzie Moore for the UNLV game on Dec. 17. In the first seven games of the season, the Miners averaged 56.7 points, making 43.5 percent (141-of-324) of their shots and 30.6 percent (22-of-72) of their three-point attempts. In four games since, UTEP has averaged 75.5 ppg with a .493 (103-of-209) field goal percentage and .426 (26-of-61) three-point field goal percentage.
UTEP has averaged 37.0 rebounds in the last four games, compared to 25.6 in the first seven games. The Miners have outrebounded back-to-back opponents (Arkansas-Pine Bluff & Nebraska) for the first time this season after getting outboarded in each of the previous eight contests.
The Miners shot 54.8 percent (17-for-31) from three-point range over the last two games. UTEP has risen from 12th in C-USA in three-point field goal percentage (.304) to fourth (.361) in the process. The Miners have also improved from ninth in C-USA in field goal percentage (.435) to fourth (.458) in the last four games.
This is the 72nd meeting between UTEP and Colorado State, with the Miners leading the series 46-25. Colorado State has won the last six games in the series and leads the ledger 18-15 at Fort Collins.
UTEP has lost on its last five trips to Fort Collins dating back to an 86-68 triumph on Feb. 29, 1992. Colorado State has won nine of the last 10 games between the rivals at Moby Arena. This is the first matchup between the schools in Fort Collins since Jan. 10, 1998, an 80-67 Ram victory.
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