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January 7, 2014
Niner Preview: UTEP
The Charlotte 49ers (9-4) travel to El Paso, Texas on Wednesday to face off in their first Conference USA matchup of the season against the UTEP Miners (10-5).
Charlotte is 1-2 on the road this season and is looking for their first C-USA win since 2005 after returning to the conference this season.
UTEP has won eight of ten home games this season including a double-overtime thriller in their last game against Denver.
Niner Report will break down the matchup between these two teams, as Charlotte looks to the start conference play on a high note, UTEP looks to keep their five-game win streak alive.
• The Miners average 70.1 points per game and shoot 32.4 percent from three point range. UTEP will look to increase these numbers against a Charlotte team that likes to play three guards to limit outside shooting and force turnovers on the defensive end so that they can run the fast break.
• Julian Mashburn leads UTEP in minutes played per game at 32.9. Despite being held to only two points against Denver, he has averaged 14 points in UTEP's last 5 games.
• Details emerged via Yahoo Sports, CBS Sports, and Sports Illustrated that the FBI is investigating two suspended UTEP players for alleged point-shaving, one of which was leading scorer, McKenzie Moore.
• On Tuesday, however, UTEP's vice president, athletic director, and head men's basketball coach addressed the media and put the rumors to rest saying there was no evidence of point-shaving and that three players were expelled from the university and dismissed from the team for betting on sporting events.
UTEP head coach, Tim Floyd said during the press conference Tuesday that walk-on players will now receive significant playing minutes due to lack of depth on the perimeter as a result of the recent player expulsions.
The Miners will have their hands full since Charlotte has three perimeter players that average double digits in scoring.
• Mike Thorne Jr. scored 12 points and pulled down 7 rebounds in Charlotte's last game against North Carolina A&T. It was important for Thorne to bounce back and assert himself mentally before the start of conference play since he had struggled in the three previous games.
• Thorne's resurgence, paired with Willie Clayton's presence inside, creates an inside-out dynamic that makes Charlotte formidable offensively since perimeter players, Henry, Lester, and Williams are averaging double digits in scoring so far this season.
• UTEP will be shorthanded given recent suspensions handed down to players, but Charlotte head coach, Alan Major in his weekly press conference Monday said that UTEP head coach, Tim Floyd "plays a little bit of everything" defensively and will change up schemes on the 49ers.
• Charlotte's matchup with UTEP is the 49ers' first C-USA road game since March 5, 2005 against then conference member, South Florida.
Charlotte lost that game, 85-73.
Two C-USA teams received bids to the NCAA tournament each year from 2010-2012, but in 2013 only one team received a bid.
If Charlotte hopes to make the big dance in 2014, their journey to the NCAA tournament begins on Thursday versus the Miners.
Tip off will be at 9:05 p.m. EST Thursday night, with national television coverage provided by CBS Sports Network.