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February 5, 2009

UTEP basketball team report, Feb. 5

Getting Inside

It was inevitable, but it was still a milestone to remember for UTEP's Stefon Jackson.

The senior guard scored 29 points in the Miners' Jan. 31 victory over Southern Miss, pushing him into first place on the all-time Conference USA scoring list, passing former leader Altron Jackson of USF.

"It's a great feeling," Jackson told the El Paso Times. "A historic school like UTEP … a lot of names came through here … and Conference USA, too. It's a great honor, and it's definitely a relief, too. People have been talking about it all week; really, since early in the season."

Of course, the fact that it came in a win-compared to the school scoring mark falling in a loss earlier this year-made it even more special for Jackson.

"It was great to get a home win," Jackson said. "Obviously, in conference, it's tough to get a win anywhere. You are supposed to protect your house and then steal a few on the road. We gave up a couple in our house."
UTEP had been 0-2 at home in conference play before the win, compared to a 3-1 mark on the road. The home victory may have meant as much, if not more, to the Miners considering their expectations for the season.

And now that they have the first home win-and the scoring record-out of the way, they're hoping to focus on the task of chasing a title.

Notes, Quotes

• The Miners have been the best offensive team in the league in conference play, averaging a league-best 77.1 points per game through the end of January.

• UTEP has been hitting the boards hard in conference play, tying with Tulsa for the top spot with 37.6 boards per contest.

Quote To Note:

"We had been playing tight (at home) thinking about the outcome. I told them to play loose, play hard, play through adversity. Don't worry about winning and losing. Worry about doing your best."-Coach Tony Barbee told the El Paso Times about UTEP finally getting a home conference win on Jan. 31 against Southern Miss.

Strategy And Personnel

UTEP is known for its offense with Stefon Jackson and Randy Culpepper, but the Miners are at their best when their defense is cranked up and creating turnovers. If the Miners want to move up in the league standings, they need to focus on that defense, because with players like Jackson and Culpepper in the lineup, the offense will always be available.

Player Rotation:

Usual starters-PG Julyan Stone, SG Stefon Jackson,G/F Gabriel McCulley, F Arnett Moultrie, C Wayne Portalatin. Key subs-G/F Jason Jones, G Randy Culpepper, C Kareem Cooper.

Game Review:

Tulsa 78, UTEP 70
UTEP 62, Houston 55
UTEP 87, Southern Miss 75

Game Preview:

at Tulsa, Saturday, Feb. 7
vs. UCF, Wednesday, Feb. 11
vs. Marshall, Saturday, Feb. 14

In Focus:

The Miners get a week off before traveling to face Tulsa in what should be a battle under the boards. Both teams were tied for the lead in rebounds per game through the end of the January, and the Golden Hurricane has one of the top big men in the country in 7-footer Jerome Jordan. UTEP will have to work hard to hold its own on the glass, and try to make the game an up-tempo affair to limit Jordan's impact on the game.

Roster Report:

• F Arnett Moultrie had a huge game against Houston Jan. 28, establishing career highs with 19 points and 18 rebounds in the UTEP victory.

• G/F Gabriel McCulley is out for two to three weeks after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery.

• C Kareem Cooper didn't make the trip with the Miners to a Jan. 28 game with Houston, which was attributed to a coach's decision. Cooper came off the bench in the Miners' next game, Jan. 31 against Southern Miss.



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