The Miners opened their season with a convincing win over Oral Roberts, 69-49. UTEP led for a majority of the game and pulled away late for the twenty-point victory. It put the Miners' record at 1-0 and set up a battle of undefeated teams in Tucson.
Former USC Head Coach Tim Floyd is in his third season as Head Coach for the University of Texas – El Paso. In his first two seasons, he led UTEP to a 40-27 collective record. Floyd is returning nine players from last season's team and adding five new faces, including graduate transfer Konner Tucker.
Leading the Miners on the floor is point guard Jacques Streeter. The senior averaged just over four assists in his last campaign, but dished out seven in the opener, showing his improvement from a year ago. Streeter will be a good test for Arizona guards Mark Lyons and Jordin Mayes.
UTEP goes with a somewhat non-traditional lineup, complete with three forwards. 6-foot-7 sophomore Julian Washburn leads the group and scored in double digits with eleven points, adding a game-high three steals against Oral Roberts. However, even with a height advantage, he grabbed just three rebounds on the night.
Jalen Ragland joins Washburn on the wing. At 6-foot-7, he can create some matchup problems for smaller guards that may try to guard him. Ragland put ten points on the scoreboard for the Miners, but also underperformed on the glass, grabbing just a single rebound.
The final forward in the starting lineup is sophomore Cedrick Lang. At 6-foot-9, Lang is a defensive presence, averaging half a block per game last season, despite only starting half of the season. He had a block and a steal in the opener, while grabbing a team-high six rebounds.
One of the keystone pieces to the Miner team this season will be John Bohannon. The 6-foot-10 center was the team leader in scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots last year and started the new season out on a good note. Bohannon scored a team-high 17 points in the game while adding two blocks, two assists, and four rebounds on the night.
First off the bench is C.J. Cooper. C.J. is a cousin of Arizona 2014 commit Eric Cooper, Jr. He is just a sophomore, but should play an important role for the team this season after playing just over fifteen minutes per game last season. Cooper finished with four points and three assists in the season opener.
The younger brother of Julian Washburn, Chris, also made an impact in the win over Oral Roberts and should see plenty of time against Arizona. Just a freshman, Chris made an immediate impact in the Miners' first victory, scoring 14 points on 6-7 shooting from the field. Chris dished out three assists and tied with his brother for the game high with three steals.
Rounding out the impactful players for the Miners is freshman forward Twymond Howard. He is a small forward who can also move over to the shooting guard position and hit a few big shots. Howard played eleven minutes, while scoring just two points, but is a player that may become more important in the Miners' scheme as the season progresses.
UTEP out rebounded Oral Roberts 36-35, but played against a team that gave up a size advantage. The Miners had just one player with more than four rebounds and that was Bohannon, who is arguably the best player on the team.
The Wildcats struggled with rebounding in their opener against Charleston Southern, giving the Buccaneers eleven offensive rebounds and extra scoring opportunities. The rebounding battle will be one aspect of the game that should be watched.
In addition, Arizona freshman Kaleb Tarczewski played few minutes against a smaller CSU team, but will get the opportunity to play against a big man that matches up well in Bohannon and it should be an important matchup that could decided the outcome of the game.
If Arizona can rebound and limit the Miners to just a single possession on most trips down the court, the Wildcats should do just fine. However, if Arizona can't control the boards and can't contain Bohannon, the game could become more difficult.