UTEP picked up a season-opening win over Washington State but hasn’t played since then. Do you think that’s an advantage or disadvantage considering the Aggies have played three games in that same time span?
I think it’s a mixture of both. Giving Tim Floyd pretty much a full week prepare is a huge advantage for the Miners, though sometime info overload could also be a bad thing. UTEP went through a timed scrimmage on Thursday, and with the intensity of a Tim Floyd practice I think the Miners will be ready mentally, but the Aggies definitely are battle tested and have a slight edge in that regard having played 120 minutes of game action.
What was the most impressive thing about the win over Washington State and how do you think that will carry over to the game against the Aggies?
The most impressive thing was at one point in the second half, C.J. Cooper, Vince Hunter, and Julian Washburn were all struggling from the floor, but UTEP was up by 11. The depth, willing and ability UTEP has to defend and virtually shut teams down is going to be tough for anyone playing against UTEP. Last year the Miners would have been down by 11 or in a dog fight if those three had bad nights. UTEP’s ability to defend is at a Top-25 level this year and that was proven against Washington State.
Another impressive thing was the emergence of Earvin Morris. The JUCO transfer came away with some huge defense to transition plays late in the game, and is a pure shooter. He provides added length to the Miners perimeter defensive attack, and is a true weapon that has been missing from Tim Floyd’s UTEP teams of the past couple of years.
What was the one thing that concerned you the most about the game against Washington State and do you think that the Miners will have solved that issue before the game?
Ball movement for one. The Miners have to be more efficient in their half court offensive possessions, and not let Mullings or the other guards take over defensively. UTEP also needs to improve their free throw shooting, which is a concern because I feel both NMSU and UTEP will be at the line quite a bit. Both were probably drilled into the Miners head this week by Floyd. This group is really coachable, and has shown a deep care for improvement through the start of “training camp’ so I expect this team to adjust and be efficient in both areas.
What are the chances that Tim Floyd dials up an exotic defense for this matchup to try to contain Daniel Mullings?
That is a bit harder to gauge. Like I mentioned Earvin Morris is someone who has to be game planned against with his length and toughness defensively, but I think what will dictate CTF’s defensive mind set is matchups and if Mullings is eating. I feel UTEP will come out and try to guard Mullings man-to-man, but if he has his way like he did last year, I would expect Floyd to then throw the kitchen sink at him.
Who is/are the newcomers that the Aggies should be worried about?
Morris like I mentioned, and also UTEP’s two new freshman guards Omega Harris and Lew Stallworth are guys who Aggie fans will get to know over the years. Stallworth and Harris don’t have to score 20 a game to make an impact. They are both great penetrators, and can help the ball movement need I mentioned earlier. The big question is how they come out and guard against NMSU’s talented guards.
The Miners win this game if…
Control the boards, limit turnovers, and force someone other than Mullings to be a leading scorer.
The Aggies win this game if…
Keep Vince Hunter, and the other bigs in check, and if another guard besides Mullings has a big scoring game NMSU will give UTEP plenty of problems.