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February 13, 2013EL PASO, TEXAS -- After posting a 2-1 mark on a three-game home stand, UTEP will play three of its next four games on the road. The Miners (13-9, 6-3 C-USA) will begin the stretch on Wednesday at Houston (14-8, 3-6 C-USA).
UTEP begins a demanding four-game stretch against the Cougars. The combined record of the Miners' next four opponents (Houston, UCF, Southern Miss, NM State) is 67-28. UTEP will play at Houston on Feb. 13, at Southern Miss on Feb. 20 and at NM State on Feb. 23. Those teams are a combined 30-6 on their home courts.
Up first is a Houston team that has gone 10-4 at Hofheinz Pavilion, while taking UCF to overtime and blowing out to a 19-point second half lead against Tulane before losing 88-85 on Saturday.
"They are one of the more physical teams in our league. They are one of the more talented scoring teams in the league," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. "They are averaging 78 points per game. I think we average around 65. We will have to make up for some things defensively."
Sophomore forward TaShawn Thomas rates among the national leaders in rebounds per game (9.6, 25th) and double-doubles (nine, 26th). He is averaging 15.9 points and shooting 53 percent from the field. Thomas is second in C-USA in rebounding and third in blocked shots. Sophomore guard Joseph Young is eighth in the NCAA in free throw percentage (.900) and leads Houston in scoring (17.2 ppg). Forward Danuel House leads all Conference USA freshmen in scoring (12.7 ppg) and has scored 20+ points five times, including 28 against SMU on Jan. 9.
"TaShawn Thomas is one of the top two or three bigs in our league," Floyd said. "He has had 40 points and 24 boards in three games against us. They've got Joseph Young, who is an outstanding scorer and a real matchup problem for us on the perimeter. They put five guys out there who can make shots."
The Miners have struggled historically at Hofheinz Pavilion, posting a 2-6 record, although all eight games have been decided by 10 points or less. That's typical in a series where the teams have met 18 times as Conference USA members, and 15 of the games have been determined by eight points or fewer.
UTEP notched two wins in three tries versus Houston last season, including in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament at Memphis. In three games versus Houston last season, junior center John Bohannon averaged 15.7 points and 9.7 rebounds with two double-doubles. Sophomore forward Julian Washburn scored in double figures in all three games, averaging 15.0 ppg with a .545 (18-for-33) field goal percentage.
The Miners are hoping to get back on the winning track after a disappointing performance against Tulsa over the weekend. Floyd knows it won't be easy on Wednesday night.
"When I watch [Houston], I say 'How in the heck are we going to guard them?'" he said. "That's what I'm worried about. Teams are always good at home, and their home record has been very good."