Paradise Island, Bahamas (SportsNetwork.com) - A fight for third place in the Battle 4 Atlantis takes place at Imperial Arena tonight, as the Miners of Texas-El Paso go up against second-ranked Kansas.
The Jayhawks had defeated four straight opponents by double figures to open the 2013-14 campaign, but the team was brought back to reality when it landed on Paradise Island for a Thanksgiving meeting with Wake Forest. Granted, Kansas was still able to come away with the victory, but the scoring margin shrank to only nine points (87-78). On Friday, the Jayhawks were held below 80 points for the first time, bowing to an upstart Villanova program by a final of 63-59.
As for the Miners, they were just 3-2 upon their arrival in the Bahamas so they weren't expected to do very much against some superior competition. However, UTEP pulled off a 78-70 win versus Tennessee on Thursday, before taking an 89-53 fall against 23rd-ranked Iowa Yesterday.
Believe it or not, the Miners lead the all-time series with Kansas by a count of 3-0, with one of those victories taking place in the 1966 NCAA Midwest Region Finals in Lubbock, Texas. Most recently, UTEP posted a 66-60 victory in the 1992 NCAA Midwest Sub-Regional in Dayton, Ohio.
UTEP fell behind almost immediately against the Hawkeyes, trailing by as many as 38 points in the second half as the Miners shot only 34.6 percent from the field and 5-of-22 behind the 3-point line. Julian Washburn was the lone double-digit scorer for the Miners with his 13 points, stemming from 4-of-14 shooting from the floor. The other four starters combined to hit on just 6- of-22 attempts for a collective 16 points.
One of those starters to come up small was McKenzie Moore who, after seven games, of which he has appeared in six and started five, is the leading scorer with 13.3 ppg. A major contributor both on the glass (4.7 rpg) and in the passing department (16 assists), Moore is shooting 90.5 percent at the free- throw line for a unit that has knocked down only 67.7 percent at the charity stripe. Washburn (11.0 ppg) is getting his points based on only 39.5 percent accuracy from the floor.
Kansas led by as many as nine points in the first half against Villanova last night, but the Jayhawks ended up shooting only 6-of-25 from the floor, including 1-of-6 beyond the arc in the period, en route to a 29-22 deficit at the break and an eventual four-point setback. Overall, Kansas knocked down only 38.9 percent from the field and 2-of-11 out on the perimeter, not to mention 15-of-25 at the free-throw line.
Frank Mason led the scoring with 12 points off the bench, followed by Perry Ellis with 11 and both Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid with 10 points as the team suffered 16 turnovers, which the Wildcats exchanged for 22 points.
Wiggins, the heralded freshman who is expected to be one-and-done at the college level, leads the team in scoring with 15.7 ppg and is also one of the better rebounders for the group with 5.3 per contest. Ellis checks in with 14.5 ppg as he shoots close to 60 percent from the field for a group that is hitting on an impressive 52.0 percent overall, compared to just 41.9 percent for the competition. However, for a program that is producing 82.3 ppg, making less than five triples per game is rather surprising.