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January 4, 2009UTEP (8-5) faces New Mexico (9-6) in The Pit for the first time since the 2005-06 season on Tuesday at 7 p.m. MST. The Miners lost in their last trip to The Pit, 76-72, on Nov. 26, 2005. UTEP has hosted New Mexico each of the last two seasons, beating the Lobos during the 2006-07 campaign (87-63) before falling in overtime, 86-85, a year ago.
This year's game marks the final tuneup for the Miners prior to Conference USA play, which starts on Saturday at SMU. That game will be televised in El Paso on Time Warner Cable MetroSports Southwest Channel 24.
The Miners won their first game of the new year on Friday, upending UT-Pan American in the Don Haskins Center, 60-42. It was UTEP's fourth victory in five games. New Mexico fell at UNLV, 60-58, in its last action on Saturday. The Lobos are 7-1 at home this season with the lone loss coming to fellow Conference USA institution UCF, 72-71, on Nov. 22. UNM is averaging 13,308 fans in eight home games, including a high of 17,197 versus New Mexico State on Dec. 23.
UTEP marks the third Conference USA school that UNM has met this season; the Lobos also knocked off Southern Miss at home, 60-58, on Dec. 6. UTEP is playing a Mountain West Conference school for the second time in 2008-09 after being dealt an 80-67 home loss to UNLV on Nov. 24.
The Miners are 0-2 on the road this season with losses at New Mexico State (90-78) and Santa Clara (89-88 in overtime).
Senior forward Daniel Faris scored a game-high 19 points in the Lobos' 60-58 setback at UNLV on Saturday. New Mexico went 9-for-17 from the line versus the Rebels and is shooting 65 percent from the charity stripe this season. Faris (11.0 ppg) is one of four Lobos with double figure scoring averages, joining senior swingman Tony Danridge (13.3 ppg), junior forward Roman Martinez (10.6 ppg) and senior guard Chad Toppert (10.3 ppg). Martinez is an El Paso native who attended Montwood High School.
Toppert has come off the bench for all 15 games and has made 39 three point field goals. The Lobos were 24-9 last season and advanced to the postseason NIT in their first year under the direction of coach Steve Alford. Four starters return, the exception being last year's leading scorer and rebounder J.R. Giddens (16.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg). Following a 3-4 start, New Mexico has won six of its last eight games.
New Mexico leads the series 75-64. The Lobos hold a 47-20 advantage in games played in Albuquerque, and a 25-9 edge in meetings at The Pit. UTEP's last win at The Pit came on Dec. 18, 1999, 73-66. UTEP and New Mexico met 66 times as members of the Western Athletic Conference, with the Miners victorious on 32 occasions.
UTEP is 4-7 against former WAC foes now in the Mountain West Conference since the league's split following the 1998-99 season (3-2 vs. New Mexico, 1-0 vs. Wyoming, 0-2 vs. UNLV, 0-2 vs. Utah, 0-1 versus TCU).