|OPPONENT:||UTEP Miners (9-2, 0-0)|
|LOCATION:||United Spirit Arena : Lubbock, TX|
|DATE:||January 3, 2010|
|TIME:||2:00 p.m. CST|
|TV:||TTSN : ESPN 360|
|GAME CAST:||Fox Sports|
The Season Thus Far: I haven't had the time to do the normal research, but what I can tell you is that the Miners have had a fairly successful season thus far, in large part do to the continued emergence of Culpepper, but also due to Louisville transfer, Derrick Caracter. The Miners sit at 9-2 for the season, with their only losses to New Mexico St. by 7 and to Mississippi in overtime. The best win on their resume right now is a win over what now looks like a not so great Oklahoma Sooners team, by 15 points.
The Main Players: As mentioned above, the UTEP starting lineup looks to be pretty stacked. Culpepper is the main cog in their machine and he's shooting an eFG% of 57.1%, which is just off the charts in terms of efficiency. Caracter is a huge 275 pounds and I wonder who will have the pleasure of guarding him. In any event, I think that Caracter became eligible relatively recently due to his transfer, but he's had an immediate impact on the team. I'm also intrigued by Stone, who appears to be a really versatile player, leading the team in assists at a healthy 6-6. That could be an interesting and matchup for SF Mike Singletary, especially if Stone is quicker than Singletary, is able to get to the rim and involve his teammates. Singletary isn't exactly a defensive ace.
Playing Big, Again: I mentioned this against New Mexico, that this team needed to play big, but that never happened. Now I think that Pat Knight will be forced to play big, especially considering that the Miners have a starter that is 6-9 and another starter that is 6-11. That's big. If there was ever a game that Knight needed to preach that the entire team needs to block out and secure every rebound, this is it. I would imagine that UTEP's length is going to cause some problems for Texas Tech and by blocking out, I would think that the Red Raiders would be able to minimize some of that length.
Wear Down Culpepper: I'm going to be looking at G Nick Okorie and G David Tairu of having the job of pressuring Culpepper all game. Both Okorie and Tairu are capable of doing this, but it's imperative that Culpepper not get into a groove. He is the heart of their offense, and Okorie and Tairu's defensive play are going to be huge.
Athletic Teams: The biggest frustration that I took away from the New Mexico loss was that the Lobos weren't so much better athletically than Texas Tech, but they sure played like it. It's amazing and frustrating to watch Singletary in that if he has a bad matchup for him on the offensive end of the floor (and he did) then he just doesn't particpate in the games. This team must learn to compete against teams that have the athletes on the wings and force opponents into bad defensive situations. It seemed like the entire New Mexico game, the team was more than willing to settle for jumpshots rather than challenge inside. Sure, the team didn't get a ton of calls, but when climbing out of a hole, getting to the line and getting your opponent in foul trouble is vital to getting your team back in the game.