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March 4, 2013
Big Battle in Final Home Game of the Season
Following a disappointing two-game losing streak on the road to Southern Mississippi and New Mexico State two weeks ago, UTEP seems to have put those losses in the rearview mirror with two impressive wins over Houston and Rice this past week.
Granted the Cougars and Owls aren't exactly the toughest opponents but with UTEP's confidence probably the lowest it had been since the beginning of the season, the Miners needed to bounce back in a big way.
Behind one of John Bohannon's best two-game stretches as a Miner (34 points and 25 rebounds combined) and an unexpected offensive boost from the bench, UTEP looks to be in the proper mindset to take down the Conference USA regular season champs.
Most would disagree an upset is not in the works for UTEP as Memphis holds a 14-0 conference record and is currently in the midst of an unbelievable run as the Tigers could be sitting on a 20-game win streak if not for a 64-62 setback to Xavier last week.
However, UTEP has the privilege of playing Memphis in the Don Haskins Center where the Miners hold a 13-2 mark. While it's never easy to put a silver lining on losses, the Miners were in both games against Tulsa and UNLV losing by a combined total of six points.
There is just something different about the home version of this UTEP squad that rises to the challenge of protecting their home court under head coach Tim Floyd.
A win over the Tigers might be a shocking upset to the rest of the college hoops world, but UTEP fans know the power of the "Bear's Den" and while the crowds have been decent, I would expect a crowd of at least 10,000 El Pasoans trying to will the Miners to another home win.
On paper, Memphis has one of the most talented teams in the country and if this game was being played at the FedEx Forum, I would be writing a whole different article.
Coach Josh Pastner might have the horses, but UTEP has Coach Floyd and based on the previous meetings with the Tigers, Floyd always seems to put together a game plan that helps close the talent gap that separates both teams.
Tomorrow night's matchup with Memphis will be a difficult one for the Miners, but win or lose the Tigers will have a fight on their hands.
Josh Puga can be reached at email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter at @jpuga1966. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.