Third-ranked Wildcats hit road to battle Miners

Dec 19, 2014 - 3:31 PM El Paso, TX ( - The third-ranked Arizona Wildcats play their first true road game of the season, as they take on the Texas-El Paso Miners in a non-conference matchup at the Don Haskins Center on Friday evening.

Sean Miller's Wildcats have played as well as any team in the nation and are certainly deserving of their lofty ranking at this time. Arizona has won all 11 games it has played thus far, with marquee wins over the likes of nationally-ranked foes in San Diego State and Gonzaga. The team recently closed out a five-game homestand with a 101-64 rout of Oakland on Tuesday.

Tim Floyd's Miners are off to a solid start to the campaign as well. UTEP currently sits at 6-3 overall thanks to recent back-to-back wins over Incarnate Word (81-65) and most recently, Southeastern Louisiana (80-62). The Miners haven't lost at home this season at 4-0.

These two teams have a deep history, as they were former WAC rivals. This marks the 91st all-time meeting between Arizona and UTEP, with the Wildcats holding a sizable 60-30 series advantage. Arizona has won three straight meetings, including a 72-51 lopsided victory in the last meeting in 2012.

Known for its strong defensive play this season, Arizona really put it together at both ends against Oakland earlier in the week, rolling up a season-high 101 points. The Wildcats shot a sterling 55 percent from the floor in the game, as five players notched double figures in the balanced attack. Freshman Stanley Johnson continued his impressive debut season with a team- best 18 points. Brandon Ashley and Gabe York added 15 points apiece, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski finished with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

The Wildcats are getting it done at both ends of the court this season, averaging 78.6 ppg on a hefty .511 shooting, while limiting foes to just 59.8 ppg and under 40 percent shooting (.388). In addition, UA has dominated the play on the boards with a +9.1 rebounding margin and lives comfortably in terms of turnover margin (+2.8) as well. Johnson has made an immediate impact in Tucson, shooting .505 from the floor and pacing the team with 14.5 ppg. Hollis-Jefferson is shooting a better .571 overall and comes off the bench with 12.5 ppg. Ashley is also converting at a high rate (.547), chipping in with 11.7 ppg.

The Miners aren't a team that lights up the scoreboard at 70.3 ppg, but the team is efficient nonetheless, shooting .472 from the field overall. The team does hold a positive rebounding margin (+5.0), but comes up a little short in the turnover department (-2.2 margin). Sophomore forward Vince Hunter is a force in the frontcourt for UTEP,. He is shooting .554 from the floor and is averaging a double-double with team-highs of 16.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Seniors Julian Washburn (10.9 ppg) and Cedrick Lang (10.7 ppg) round out the top scoring options on the roster for UTEP.

Reaching the 80-point mark in each of the last two games is an encouraging sign for UTEP. In the win over SE Louisiana, the Miners shot .574 from the floor overall, including a scorching .679 in the second half to cruise to victory. Hunter had a huge game, shooting 11-of-13 from the floor and finishing with a game-high 26 points. Earvin Morris poured in 17 points in 23 minutes of work off the bench, while Washburn added 15 points to the cause.

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!