Miners set to battle Aggies Friday night in Las Cruces

UTEP basketball

UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry, along with his revamped roster will experience their first Battle of I-10 on Friday (Nov. 9) as UTEP will face NM State for the first time this season. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in the Pan American Center.

“It’s obviously a great rivalry, one that we have tremendous respect for and respect for their program and what they’ve been able to do,” Terry said. “There’s obvious respect for coach (Chris) Jans and how he gets his guys prepared to compete at a very high level. I think it’s great for both of us to compete at a high level and continue to get better.”

The Miners and Aggies will face each other for the 216th time on Friday night, while the two will square off for a second time this season on Wednesday, Nov. 28 in the Don Haskins Center. The Nov. 9 date is the earliest that the two programs will meet in the history of the rivalry, while it’s the second time since the 2014-15 season that UTEP will take on NM State in its second game of the season.

The Miners (1-0) are coming off a 90-63 victory over UT Permian Basin on Nov. 6, while Terry chalked up his first win as UTEP’s head coach. Terry started two freshmen in Efe Odigie and Jordan Lathon, while Kaosi Ezeagu played significant minutes off the bench. The trio combined for 39 points, the second-most combined points ever by UTEP freshmen in a season opener.

Odigie impressed in his UTEP debut, scoring 23 points and pulling down nine rebounds in 19 minutes of action. Odigie’s tied the most points ever by a UTEP freshman in a season opener. Terry’s other big man, Ezeagu, made a positive impression, scoring 10 points, tallying nine rebounds and blocking a pair of shots. Lathon led the Miners with 10 rebounds, dished out four assists, blocked two shots and chipped in with six points. Lathon was the first UTEP freshman with 10-plus boards in a season opener since 1978.

As far as UTEP’s returning letterwinners, Paul Thomas energized the Miner faithful and his teammates with a thunderous dunk over a UT Permian Basin defender during the second half. The senior scored 10 points, blocked a shot, tallied a pair of dimes and three rebounds.

Evan Gilyard led the Miners with 24 points on 6-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. The sophomore sensation scored 16 of his points during the second half, while connecting on 5-of-7 three-point buckets. Gilyard tied for the team lead with fellow sophomore Kobe Magee as each dished out five assists. Magee was the first Miner to play the full 40 minutes in season opener since Nov. 21, 2000.

After heading to the locker room up four points (38-34), Terry’s squad came out with more intensity during the second half and outscored the Falcons, 52-29, after hitting on more than 65 percent of their field goals. Overall, UTEP connected on over 52 percent of its field goals, while going 11-for-23 from three-point range. The Miners also dished out 19 assists, combined for six blocks and outrebounded their opponent, 42-40. UTEP’s 42 free throw attempts were its third-most in a season opener.

The Aggies (1-0) also won on opening night, defeating North Dakota State, 73-56. Redshirt senior JoJo Zamora led the team with 16 points in 19 minutes, while junior Terrell Brown scored 13 points off the bench. Junior Clayton Henry led NM State with seven rebounds and chipped in with eight points. The Aggies recorded eight assists and outrebounded NDSU 47-31.

UTEP and NM State is the longest-running series in school history, as the Aggies lead the series 112-103.

Last season during the first meeting on Nov. 25 in Las Cruces, Thomas (30 minutes) and Gilyard (33 minutes) tied for the team lead with 14 points each and registered five rebounds apiece. During the second meeting in El Paso, Thomas recorded nine points and three rebounds, while Magee, after only playing one minute in the first meeting, upped his minutes to eight in the second game.

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