UTEP Preview: Battle on The Rio Grande
Updated: Feb 25
Date: Saturday 2/26/22 TV: ESPN+
Time: 8 pm CT Radio: 100.5 FM
UAB makes the long trip to El Paso Saturday night to take on the Miners of UTEP. In the first meeting this year in Birmingham the Blazers beat the Miners 75-62 in a game that really wasn't as close as that score looks. The Blazers dominated the first half and coasted in the second half for the 13 point victory. Mike Ertel had a monster game leading the way with 25 points in 28 minutes of play. UAB is 3-6 in El Paso with the last win coming the last time the Blazers were there in 2020. That game saw the Blazers take a 69-55 victory with Will Butler leading the scoring with 17 points. Tavin Lovan also played in that game getting 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assist.
This game with UTEP looks to be a much more difficult contest than the first. UTEP went 2-1 on their last road swing with wins against Southern Miss and LaTech while dropping one to MTSU in the Glass House. The last game UTEP played was on February 21st. Yes, that means they will have had a 5 day break. They will have had five days to recoup and recover. Meanwhile, your Blazers will spend either Thursday night or Friday flying to El Paso and maybe getting in a practice or two to prepare for the game. Let's hope that we can find time to rest. Its also worth a note that UTEP is expecting one of their largest crowds of the year as they are offering special ticket packages for university employees and are really pushing for a big student turnout. They are looking to put over 7,000 fans in those Haskin Center seats which would be the largest of the year surpassing the 6,392 they had against New Mexico State. It should be a great atmosphere for one of the best basketball arena's in the conference. Anyway, lets take a look at some keys to the game against the Miners of UTEP.
1. Control Souley Boum.
Boum is "that" man for UTEP. He comes in with a team high 19.9 points a game and is shooting more free throws than anyone on the team by a mile. He has made 139 of the 160 free throws taken which is roughly 86%. That means he draws fouls and gets to the free throw line. We will have to be very disciplined on tired legs to stay out of foul trouble against him. Boum also leads the team in minutes played averaging 36.6 a game. In his last 3 games he went for 28, 12, and 24 points. Look for Boum to get a lot of attention from our defense giving opportunities to other Miner players on this team, such as Bieniemy and Saterfield. Look for Quan to draw the assignment on Boum.
2. Buffin needs to continue being a factor if we want to have any success going forward. It has become no secret that when this Blazer basketball team plays well KJ Buffin is a big contributor to that success. When Buffin plays well it opens up our offense. While Quan and Jelly have been our more consistent scorers it is when Buffin is heavily involved in our offense that the gears really start to grind. The Junior from Gainesville, Florida has become that player who will get those tough, strong baskets or those big time needed rebounds. He plays with an edge and a chip on his shoulder that has gotten him in some trouble this year but, you need someone on the team like him. The Blazers need to work on getting him established Saturday night. He led the team in rebounds while only scoring eight last time out against the Miners. Look for KJ to be more involved in this one much like his team leading 16 points against UTSA. Another strong performance from the big man could help UAB do something it has not done this year. Get a conference road sweep.
3. Speaking of road sweeps. The Blazers have not had a road sweep all conference season. Actually some of the Blazers worst played games all year have come on the second leg of the road swing. The team has faced some bad luck on some of those weekend games. Such as the flight crew getting put in Corona protocol forcing the Blazers to take the nearly 5 hour bus ride from Bowling Green to Huntington right after the win against WKU. But, bad travel arrangements aside, if the Blazers are going to beat UTEP they will have to find a way to play with energy and consistency that has been lacking all year on those second road games. This team will have to find some strength in those legs to take on a well rested UTEP team. They will need to figure this out before the conference tournament as well since the team will be called upon to play in back to back games assuming they win their first. Can the Blazers figure out the road conundrum that has been plaguing them all year? Tune in with the rest of us Saturday night to find out.
John Duncan: I expect this to be a close game and a little more high scoring than some would think. The Blazers will have to hit their free throws in El Paso to get out with a W.
Final score: UAB 80 UTEP 77
Brad Cummings: Will this be the game that UAB finally gets its first road sweep? This will be one of the toughest road games of the year not only because of the long travel to get to El Paso, but also because they will be facing a well rested team in front of what is expected to be a large hostile crowd. UAB will have to make this game ugly and play defense like they did against UTSA Thursday. Also free throws will matter in this game.
Final Score: UAB 64 UTEP 60