Wednesday , Feb , 22 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Conference USA’s best meet with UTEP taking on Memphis

(Sports Network) – The fourth-ranked Memphis Tigers will face a tough
test this evening from the UTEP Miners in a battle of the two best teams in
Conference USA. While Memphis enters this contest with a 13-game winning
streak, UTEP has won 10 of its last 11 games and owns 17-6 overall record,
including a 9-1 mark against league competition. The Miners are fresh off
a 58-47 decision over Rice on Saturday, marking their fifth consecutive
triumph. They have now held two straight opponents and three of the last four
to fewer than 50 points, and strong defense has clearly been the key to the
team’s success.

As for Memphis, it has won 13 home games this season by an average of
21.5 ppg, including wins over national powers Gonzaga and Tennessee. The
last two victories for the Tigers have come by a total of 79 points,
including a 105-65 thrashing of Tulane on Saturday. Memphis owns a 4-1 edge
in the all-time series with UTEP, including wins in all three home meetings.

UTEP is not an explosive offensive team by any means, as the squad is scoring
just 68.1 ppg on 45 percent shooting from the floor, including 33.5 percent
from three-point range. Fortunately, the Miners are limiting foes to 58.5 ppg
on 39.6 percent overall efficiency and outrebounding opponents by 6.2 rpg.
John Tofi is posting 14.5 ppg on 52.3 percent shooting from the field for
UTEP, and he is also pulling down 9.5 rpg. Jason Williams adds 13.5 ppg to the
mix, and he is grabbing 7.3 rpg. Rounding out the double-digit scorers is
Miguel Ayala with 10.7 ppg.

In the victory over Rice last time out, Williams managed 18 points to lead
the pack. The only other double-digit scorer for UTEP was Tofi, who
finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. The
Miners forced 18 turnovers and limited the Owls to 42 field goal attempts.

Memphis has no trouble lighting up the scoreboard, as the team is averaging
84.0 ppg. The Tigers can get it done defensively as well, as they are limiting
opponents to 67.4 ppg on 38.3 percent shooting from the field. They are also
outrebounding foes by 7.5 rpg, a major key to their success. Rodney Carney is
the top offensive performer for Memphis, as he is scoring 18.2 ppg, despite
averaging only 25.5 minutes of action per game. Darius Washington adds 14.0
ppg to go along with 90 assists, and Shawne Williams is contributing 13.1 ppg
and 6.3 rpg.

Against Tulane, Memphis forced 22 turnovers, a major reason it was able to
easily overcome a 20-11 deficit in points from the foul line. Carney was
sensational in the win, as he netted 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the
field in only 18 minutes. Four players reached double figures in scoring
for the Tigers, who connected on 57.5 percent of their field goal
attempts, including a 10-of-15 showing from three-point range. Williams missed
the game because of a sore knee, but there appears to be a good chance that he
will play tonight.