MINER ILLUSTRATED VOL 1 ISSUE 4
MBB: Questions Arise Following Tulsa Loss 6 WBB: On A Non-Magic Carpet Ride 8 MBB: Around the League 9 Despite Adversity, Houston Keeps Smiling 10 The Final Word 14
FEB. 2, 2011
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MINER ILLUSTRATED VOL I ISSUE 4
FromTheEDITOR As you’re reading this column, high school prospects around the country are sending their National Letter of Intent to their chosen college. There’s no doubt a small batch will be faxed to the UTEP coaching staff. As mentioned in our last issue, we’ll document this joyous occasion with as many photos and quotes from the players that pledged to play for the Miners in next week’s Signing Day special issue. You’ll also get a quick preview of the 2011 edition of the UTEP softball team to boot. Until then, we’ll quench your thirst for Miner sports with this week’s publication that contains a feature on women’s basketball player Whitney Houston, who is battling more than a knee injury, yet keeps her infectious smile in open view. We also take a deeper look at the men’s and women’s basketball teams after a difficult weekend road trip. Chris talks about how the men’s team is reverting back to “dribble ball”, while I provide a look as to why the women’s team has been on a roller coaster ride since the beginning of Conference USA play. As always we’ll take you on our weekly road trip around Conference USA.
FEB. 2, 2011
a publication of Shamrock Media LLC CHRIS AVILA PRESIDENT CARLOS SILVA, JR. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF JEFF TAYLOR CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER GUS CONTRERAS ANGEL LUNA ALEX MORALES JOSH PUGA “UTEP66” STAFF WRITERS
Finally, we get a fresh take in our column segment entitled, “The Final Word” from Josh Puga. Puga tells the fans that last Saturday afternoon’s one-point loss to Tulsa, while devastating, does not signal the end of the season by any means.
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So enjoy our fourth edition of the MI Magazine, and look out for next week’s Signing Day special. We’ll have plenty of photos, quotes and notes to ensure you’ll know everything about each recruit before they step foot on campus.
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I guarantee you’ll want to meet some of the new guys that will be donning the Orange and Blue.
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Cover photo: Gabe McCulley slams dunks a basketball last Wednesday against Tulane at the Don Haskins Center. Jeff Taylor
THE BIG PICK A picture is worth a thousand words, especially after a tough loss. Tim Floyd and Randy Culpepper came close to pulling off a comeback win Saturday night in Tulsa, but a poor first half was just too much to overcome. Mark D. Smith/US Presswire
M I N E R I L L U S T R AT E D. C O M
TEAM REVERTS TO ‘DRIBBLE BALL’ CHRIS AVILA When the buzzer went off Saturday night and the Miners walked off the court with a loss to Tulsa, players hung their head low. You could see by their reaction that they knew they could have won the game at the Donald W. Reynolds Center. Perhaps they should have won the game. Ultimately, they didn’t and many fans were left to ponder what exactly went wrong after the game. Message boards were lit up with hypotheses and critiques as to why things went wrong, either early or late in the game. Multiple Twitter accounts questioned the ending, as did MI’s account (@minermaniac), wondering why Julyan Stone dished the ball after getting a few feet from the basket. The Miner Nation was left with a sinking feeling as the broadcast ended. It didn’t help that there was an opportunity missed for UTEP to take sole possession of first place, in the conference standings, after Memphis lost earlier in the day either. Getting the win simply wasn’t meant to be Saturday, and now the only question that can really be asked is whether or
not Tim Floyd can straighten the ship and continue to move forward. Are the team’s problems from the last two game signs of more to come? For everyone in attendance Wednesday, Tulane came out playing as the far superior team. They outhustled the Miners in almost every non-statistical aspect of the game. There was more hustle, better screens, better defense and better communication by the Green Wave players. At one point UTEP players simply looked at each other with a look of confusion, wondering who was supposed to pick up whom on a defensive screen. More importantly, players weren’t getting good looks at the basket after rushing set offensive plays. Fortunately for the Miners, things picked up in the second half. They focused more and emerged victorious. However, one had to wonder if this was another tale of two halves. Sadly, the trend continued into the Tulsa game for most of the first half. The main difference in this contest was not the quick execution of Golden Hurricane point guards, rather; the attacking post moves of Tulsa’s big men was the story. That led to UTEP players in foul trouble
and Floyd scrambling to solve the problem. If anything, the biggest problem for the Miners in both games was a lack of visible communication and errant one-pass shots that were taken in haste when the Miners brought the ball down the court. Both were evidence of the Miners failing to adhere to Floyd’s plan of patience, execution and solid defensive play. More concerning than anything else is the reemergence of what Floyd calls, “dribble ball”. As the Miners continue to fight their way through the rest of the season, one has to wonder how much of the “defending conference champions” talk is beginning to wear on the team, and if the Miners feel their athleticism can get them out of every jam. It may not be the case at all, but the fact of the matter is the schedule doesn’t get any easier in the month of February. UTEP must zero in on their ability to stay focused if they want to emerge as the conference champions once again. If not, they’ll be pondering “what ifs” for the rest of the offseason.
Surprise, Surprise After much ado, regarding the UTEP men’s basketball team’s issue of a presence in the post, the Miners have been getting the job done by being the top defensive rebounding team in C-USA. The Miners are averaging 26.8 defensive rebounds per game. Done Streaking Up until Saturday, the Miners had beaten the Golden Hurricane four straight times after Tulsa had won the previous four matchups between the schools. With
Saturday’s loss, Tulsa extended their series lead to 27-15 all-time against UTEP. Keeping The Streak Of Shooting Alive The UTEP women’s basketball team notched its eighth-straight game with a field-goal percentage of at least 40 percent, which rates tied for the secondlongest streak in school history. The program standard is nine consecutive contests, which was achieved during the 1986-87 campaign. In 2006-07 UTEP ran off eight straight tilts with 40 percent or better. In terms of conference-only
contests, the effort by this year’s team equals the program standard. The 200001 squad also enjoyed such a run.
WBB Perfect In “Pack The House” Games With the triumph against Tulsa last Thursday, UTEP improved to a perfect 5-0 when holding its “Pack The House” promotion. The Miners were certainly aided in the game against the Golden Hurricane with a season-high 2,642 fans in attendance.
This wasnâ€™t the first time there was heartache by members of the coaching staff . Assistant coaches Greg Foster and Jason Niblett have had to wonder what has been going on with the play of the Miners, as was the case when this photo was taken last Wednesday during the Tulane game at the Don Haskins Center. Jeff Taylor
M I N E R I L L U S T R AT E D. C O M
TURNOVER WOES PUT MINERS ON ROLLER COASTER CARLOS SILVA, JR.
The UTEP women’s basketball team has been on a roller coaster ride since Jan. 6. The 89-80 victory against East Carolina at the Don Haskins Center marked the last time the Miners won two games in a row. Since then it’s been an ebb and flow of wins and losses. Fortunately, the team has kept the losses from the piling up, but the biggest concern is whether they can decrease their turnovers and increase their rebounding production. Both were factors, once again, in a 69-63 loss to Tulane who is in second place in the Conference USA standings. More important is the resulting effect of the loss, moving UTEP from fifth to seventh place. In last week’s article I mentioned how important it would be for the Miners
Dietra Caldwell has been one of the team leaders for the Miners over the last few seasons. If she and her teammates want to make a r un at the NCAA tournament, they must refocus and limit their tur novers. Chr is Avila
to stay relevant in the C-USA hunt. At the time they were in fifth place, with a chance to move up in the standings, but with the ensuing loss to the Green Wave the Miners (12-8, 4-4 C-USA) will need a huge surge to earn a first round bye in the C-USA Tournament that will be held in El Paso next month. Yes, the team has shown great strength in the signs of adversity, losing two starting point guards, but that hardship has shifted into the form of not being able to take care of the ball and an inability to grab rebounds. Those are two important facets of the game that head coach Keitha Adams instills into her team on a daily basis. One of those issues hasn’t been a focus as of late. In the last two games the Miners have recorded 57 turnovers, which have turned into 61 points for their opponents, Tulsa
and Tulane. A positive the team can build upon is their ability to shoot well from the free-throw line, making about 80 percent (44 for 51) of their shots over the last two games. Along with that is the fact UTEP has outrebounded opponents 73 to 58. The team, along with the coaching staff, has a week to work on a few things, which may include the assist to turnover ratio (20 to 57). Granted, the team in attempting to incorporate a freshman and a few junior college transfers into the guard rotation, but that may be a thing of the past now that rebounding, player integration and free-throw shooting is falling into the place. With eight games left in the season the Miners must find a way to begin a winning streak. They have the tools to accomplish this, but will it be enough to overcome the turnovers? For one game, it wasn’t.
M I N E R I L L U S T R AT E D. C O M
MBB: AROUND THE LEAGUE MINER ILLUSTRATED STAFF REPORTS
SMU 75, Rice 68 HOUSTON, Texas - Robert Nyakundi scored 29 points, a career high, to lead SMU to a 75-68 win against Rice Saturday afternoon at Tudor Fieldhouse. Papa Dia added 19 points and Mike Walker 13 for the Mustangs (13-8, 4-3 Conference USA), who won their third in a row. Arsalan Kazemi made 13 of 15 free throws, scoring 21 points, and grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds to lead the Owls (10-11, 2-5). Connor Frizzelle scored 17 points and Tamir Jackson 12. SMU extended its current win streak to three games, improving to 13-8 and 4-3 in Conference USA play. Rice also entered the game with a two-game win streak, but fell to 10-11 and 2-5 with the loss. Southern Miss 67, Tulane 54 HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Southern Miss used two 12-0 runs to defeat the Tulane men’s basketball team 67-54 Saturday afternoon at Reed Green Coliseum. Senior forward Gary Flowers recorded his fourth double-double of the year, scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds to tie for the team lead. Fellow Golden Eagles (16-5, 5-3 C-USA) senior R.L. Horton scored 12 points, and junior Maurice Bolden had 11 points and six rebounds. Jordan Callahan, who had his 15th straight double-digit scoring performance, led all scorers with 20 points for Tulane (12-8, 2-5 C-USA), while pulling down six rebounds. Kendal Timmons added 18 points and six boards for the Green Wave. East Carolina 74, Houston 70 GREENVILLE, N.C. – Brock Young scored 11 points, all in the second half, leading East Carolina to a 74-70 victory against Houston Saturday night at Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum. It was the second come-from-behind victory in three games continued on page 13
M I N E R I L L U S T R AT E D. C O M
LIFE’S CHALLENGES CANNOT STOP SENIOR GUARD ALEX MORALES Whitney Houston walked into Thursday afternoon’s practice a little late from the training room, sporting a purple hoodie and UTEP basketball shorts. Even with the halogen lights illuminating the hardwood courts, the senior guard, donning a huge smile that spread from ear to ear, lit up the Foster Stevens Basketball Center gym. Her teammates greeted her from the onset and instantly fed off her energy and enthusiasm for the rest of practice. Despite the trials and tribulations Houston has endured over the past year, she’s been able to keep that trademark smile and cheerful personality day in and day out. Houston entered the offseason anticipating a big return with the Miners after she rehabilitated an injured left knee she blew out at Colorado, missing the 2008-2009 season. She planned to honor her father Larry and sister Cyntresia, who passed away after being in a car accident, by dedicating her season to them. She wouldn’t be able to do that, tearing her ACL prior to her first game. It was a wealth of emotions and it would have been understandable had the feelings overtaken her life, but that’s not the way Houston operates. Head coach Keitha Adams knows firsthand that a little adversity cannot stop Houston. “I think what it shows all of us, is how being strong, having faith, having a thick skin and never giving up and hanging in there can do a lot for you,” Adams said. “I’m very proud of her. She’s got her degree. She graduated from Colorado. She’s working on her Masters (degree) here. She’s doing a lot of things to put herself in a position to be successful in life.”
Adams is also hopeful that the NCAA will grant Houston another year of eligibility, allowing her to not only continue her playing career in a Miner uniform, but allow her to return to the game she loves. “She’s probably the fastest and quickest player on our roster,” Adams said. “No question. It’s disappointing and it just gives us that one less option that we would have had, but the exciting thing is we are hopeful we will have her for the whole next year. Hopefully it’s just a tradeoff. ” Houston’s teammate Gloria Brown has seen their shortterm friendship blossom over the years. She’s been by her side through thick and thin and consoled Houston through her tough times, connecting to her, as she too has lost a parent. “There is more to life than just basketball,” Brown said. “I lost my father, so I can kind of relate to some of the stuff that she went through. I just tell her to keep her head up and that it’s going to be alright.” Despite what has happened in her personal life, and on the basketball court, Houston always has one person she can rely on. Her mother and her religious beliefs have kept her positive through the difficult times. Whenever she has doubts about anything, God and her mother are the first ones that she calls on for advice. “He (God) plays a big part in my life,” Houston said. “I just have to put him first. I feel it starts with him first and my mom. She’s my motivation too. She’s gives me scriptures every time I call her, and she tells me to be positive. All that plays a big part in my life.” It’s also a big reason Houston no longer questions why she tore her ACL prior to the beginning of the season. As she put it, continued on page 12
patientlyLEADING Houston transferred from Colorado, immediately becoming eligible by the NCAA to compete for UTEP. Unfortunately things haven’t worked out the way she planned due to a preseason knee injury. Regardless, Houston will be a welcomed addition to the team after playing in 71 games for the Colorado Buffaloes, including 22 starts, while compiling 407 points, 121 assists, 102 rebounds and 44 steals. During her sophomore year, she won the squad’s “Sixth Man” award after pacing CU reserves in assists (41) and scoring (4.3 points per game). Without a doubt, Houston can play and is able to lead her team. As she sits on the bench, she can be seen talking to teammates, offering words of encouragement and pointing out flaws in opponent’s system. She’s become a player’s coach, in every sense of the word. More interestingly though, on a spoof of her famous singing namesake, UTEP celebrated Whitney Houston Night during a home game in which the Miners played against Houston earlier in the season. Fans were welcomed to dance and sing to a cavalcade of Whitney Houston songs throughout the game and dance on the court during halftime. Houston did not partake in the singing, despite playing the drums and singing in her spare time.
Whitney Houston hasnâ€™t played in a regular season game yet, but her influence on and off the court is visible. Her upbeat attitude and experience have helped the underclassmen develop throughout the season. UTEP Athletics
M I N E R I L L U S T R AT E D. C O M
Challenges continued from page 10 God has a plan for her. “Everybody asks themselves why this happened to me again,” Houston said. “I just got to a point where I had to stop asking and just deal with it because that is the only thing you can do.” Injuries have not stopped Houston from being a great teammate either. Even though she is not on the floor during games, she’s still an essential part of the team. She watches every step that each of her teammates make and gives them feedback during the game, acting as an assistant coach. “I just try to stay positive and just try to give them advice on what I see,” Houston said. “When I was hurt in Colorado, I was just down about being hurt. I wasn’t talking to anybody about anything that I saw. But here, it’s just a positive thing
because what I see I know I can help them.” Facing adversity is nothing new to Houston. She’s been criticized about her size and ability to take her talent to the next level all her life. This has been a huge motivating factor that has contributed to her work ethic. “As far as basketball goes; I’m going to stick with my dream,” Houston said. “Just because people tell me that it’s not possible or I’m too small, it never gets me down. I’m always going to come in and work hard.” The only thing Houston sees in her future is taking her talent to the next level and giving back to her community in Memphis, Tenn. The former will take a backseat as she rehabs her knee injury, but there’s no question that nothing will deter her from both goals. “Playing pro basketball is what I see
right now,” Houston said. “When I’m not playing basketball, helping out at my old high school because I do want to give back to the community, I just want to let the students know that dreams are possible and you just have to stick with it no matter what happens.” For now Houston just plans to stick to a grueling rehab regimen and work her way back to playing shape. Whether or not she’s granted another year of basketball is not a concern because, as she sees it, she’s been blessed everyday she’s able to wake up and show people her trademark smile. “I just come in her every day. I wake up thank God and just go about my day and just do my rehab,” Houston said. “I just have to wait until my time comes. That’s the only thing I can do is be patient. You can’t rush anything. You can’t rush greatness.”
noteWORTHY Track: Sprinters Endurance Abinuwa and Anderson Mutegi (pictured) took top finishes in the women’s 60m and men’s 400m, respectively, in the final day of the New Mexico Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M. Abinuwa posted a winning time of 7.34 for the gold. The junior had clocked a time of 7.45 two weeks ago on the same track during the Miners’ season opener at the Lobo Open. Mutegi took top honors in the men’s 400 meters with a time of 47.36. The senior from Meru, Kenya, ran the second leg of the men’s 4x400-meter relay that took silver. Mutegi alongside newcomers Michael Davis, Jacob Garcia and Leon Dillihunt recorded a time of 3:15.33 in the event.
Rifle: Freshman Korina Rodriguez fired a career-best 571 in smallbore. The Miners combined for an aggregate score of 4627, the best home performance of the season
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MBB: AROUND THE LEAGUE (continued) for the Pirates (12-9, 4-3 C-USA. Along with Young, three other players scored in double digits: Darrius Morrow (18), Corvonn Gaines (13) and Jontae Sherrod (20). Maurice McNeil led the Cougars (11-9, 3-4 C-USA) with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Alandise Harris finished with 16 points, adding five rebounds, while Adam Brown added 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Senior guard Zamal Nixon added 10 points, two rebounds and two assists. Marshall 85, Memphis 70 HUNTINGTON, W. Va. - Redshirt freshman DeAndre Kane scored with 20 points to lead Marshall to a 85-70 victory over Memphis on Saturday evening at the Cam Henderson Center. Kane’s performance earned him C-USA Freshman of the Week honors, while teammates Tirrell Baines and Damier Pitts recorded 17 points apiece for the Thundering Herd. Shaquille Johnson chipped in 10 points. Tarik Black notched 14 points for the Tigers while Joe Jackson finished with 12. Will Barton scored 20 points in 34 minutes of play. UAB 75, UCF 69 ORLANDO, Fla. – Mike Davis earned his 100th as UAB’s head coach in thrilling fashion as his team rallied from a 64-59 deficit in the final five minutes and defeated UCF 74-69 on Saturday night at UCF Arena. Dexter Fields scored 19 points, while Jamarr Sanders tallied 18. Senior guard Aaron Johnson added 11 points and 11 assists for the Blazers (15-5, 5-2 Conference USA), recording his second double-double this season. Tom Herzog recorded 20 points, a career high, while Marcus Jordan scored 15 points and handed out five assists. Keith Clanton added 13 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Marshall 63, Houston 62 HOUSTON, Texas - With 11 seconds left to play, Marshall’s Aundra Williams scored his only field goal giving the Thundering Herd a win over Houston Tuesday night in Hofheinz Pavillion. Marshall’s DeAndre Kane had 24 points while Alandise Harris and Maurice McNeil each scored 16 points for the Cougars, who have now lost their last four games.
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THE FINAL WORD: Opportunity Knocked, No One Answered Josh Puga The UTEP basketball team found itself 24 seconds away from sole possession of first place in Conference USA after Memphis lost to Marshall earlier in the night. After the Miners erased an eightpoint halftime deficit, they took a 68-67 lead against Tulsa after a clutch 3-pointer, in the corner, by Randy Culpepper. It’s game over, right? Wrong. Tulsa’s Justin Hurtt drilled a 16-foot jump shot over the outstretched hand of Culpepper, putting UTEP in a three-way tie for first place, with UAB and Memphis, after a 69-68 heartbreaking loss to the Golden Hurricane. Is it time to press the panic button? No. As most coaches say, “win all your conference home games and split on the road.” The Miners are doing just that with a 3-0 record at home and 2-2 away from the Don Haskins Center. Plus, the way the conference season has unfolded; it might be enough to pull out the regular season title with so many evenly matched teams. Unfortunately for the Miners they are two bounces of the ball away from being 7-0 in conference and 19-3 overall. Personally, I have no problem with the last second-shots that left the Miners on the losing end of two difficult road games. I do take issue knowing the Miners let two games slip through their fingers though. They strayed away from what had made them successful: good defense, staying patient on offense and attempting more free throws than their opponent. All three items were brought up by head coach Tim Floyd and his staff at the beginning of the year as keys to ensuring the team would stay in games. I understand the Miners were not going to run the table in Conference USA. They’ve put together a nice season up to this point, but with 40 days left until Selection Sunday, the Miners might get stung by the two conference road losses that could have been, especially the Tulsa
loss. I don’t think I need to mention what happened in Birmingham, Ala. Look, the Miners are still in a great position to defend their regular season title. I’ll even admit I didn’t think the team would be in this position at this point in the season. Floyd has brought a winning attitude to this veteran team, and they are still improving. Not to say it was difficult to sell winning to a team that went 26-7 overall and 15-1 in C-USA, but it’s even more complicated when you’re a new voice and trying to persuade these same players that a different style of play will yield the same results. My only gripe about the season is that the team could be in a better position heading into their Feb. 2nd meeting with struggling UCF. Who knew the Golden Knights would go on a six-game losing
Christian Polk can help lead the Miners back to the NCAA Tour nament, but it’s going to take more than one person to acheive that goal. Jeff Taylor
streak after starting the year a perfect 140. It’s a good thing for the Miners. The team has been down this road before, following a loss, four times this season. Each time the Miners have bounced back and won their next game. There’s also plenty of time to make this season as memorable as the last. It might be a little early to be talking about March Madness, but the Miners must start February on a good note. Even more important is to continue to be strong through the month as the showdown with co-conference leader Memphis looms on Feb. 26th. The opportunity is still knocking at the door, but will the Miners answer? My guess is they’re turning the doorknob.