Ten Takeaways from UTEP Basketball’s Opening Loss at Texas
UTEP men's basketball hung in with the 12th-ranked Texas Longhorns on Monday, ultimately falling 72-57 in the contest for the team's season opener.
In front of 11,000+ Longhorn fans, the Miners put up a fight in the brand new Moody Center. They cut the Texas lead to single digits in the second half but were simply overpowered by their tough Big 12 foe. There were a lot of early takeaways from the brand new Joe Golding squad to start off year two of the new coaching regime.
Check out MinerTalk, presented by the Oscar Arrieta Agency, below from last night's Twitter Space edition.
Here are 10 thoughts from last night:
UTEP's starting lineup can change any given night
To open the seasons, the Miners went with an interesting lineup that may have surprised some. They went with newcomers Shamar Givance, Tae Hardy and Calvin Solomon, which wasn't a surprise. But, instead of starting returning players Jamari Sibley and Ze'Rik Onyema, they went with Otis Frazier III (wing) and Kevin Kalu (center).
This tells me that Golding isn't afraid to play anyone in his starting five, as long as the player earns it. Kalu in particular was able to hang in defensively with the Longhorns and he will be an interesting player to watch this year as he enters his sophomore year. On the other hand, Frazier III has a legitimate chance to become a primary starter for UTEP.
Joe Golding trusts his defense
The UTEP defense created 15 turnovers, picked up 20 rebounds on defense (out-rebounding Texas, 32-27) and totaled five steals on the night. They also held the Longhorns to shooting just 28.6% from beyond the arc, though Texas shot 55% from the field. Promising Texas player and potential lottery pick Dillon Mitchell was held to just four points by the Miner defense.
This UTEP defense is tough.
The Miners will be able to stay in any game because of their defense. Sure, their offense lacks a true knockdown scorer like they had last year with Souley Boum and Jamal Bieniemy. But this team will be competitive because of their defense, and their offense will have a chance to develop throughout the year.
One and done: Jonathan Dos Anjos out with an injury
Early into the contest, JUCO transfer Jonathan Dos Anjos, who was the first player to commit and sign his letter of intent to UTEP among the newcomers, suffered an injury. He played in just one minute and was out after falling onto the floor. The broadcast said it appeared to be a leg injury and Dos Anjos immediately was helped to the locker room.
Later on in the game, Dos Anjos could be seen with a knee brace and was walking in crutches.
"He's in crutches so it's obviously not great," Golding said in his postgame interview. "Hopefully it's just a sprain."
The team is set to get Dos Anjos an MRI on Tuesday and we should learn more about his timeline by the end of the week. If it's a sprain, that could sideline him for 5-7 weeks.
Calvin Solomon is a major upgrade in the frontcourt
It looks like Stephen F. Austin transfer Calvin Solomon will be relied on heavily through the early part of the season, especially if Dos Anjos is out.
Though Solomon struggled to stay on the court due to foul trouble against Texas, the Miner forward was an obvious key player in the game. He finished with seven points, four rebounds, five turnovers and two steals in 22 minutes.
He's 6-foot-7 and hung in with the likes of the Texas bigs all night, despite fouling out. Solomon is going to help elevate the entire play of the frontcourt.
The Shamar Givance-Tae Hardy backcourt duo has potential
Again, the offensive identity will be a work-in-progress for the Miners. But they have obvious scoring potential with the likes of their top two guards in Shamar Givance and Tae Hardy. Givance was more of a floor general with Texas, trying to slow down the game and finished with eight points, six assists and four rebounds. Hardy can score from all levels, scoring nine points and totaling three rebounds.
The two transfer guards already have high-level defensive abilities. They can develop good chemistry with each other and I wouldn't be surprised to see these two lead a more fast-paced offense as the season goes along. The two guards will be instrumental in UTEP trying to find more scoring. They need to take the scoring mentality upon themselves in order to try to win games for the Miners.
The spark plug: Otis Frazier III
Though we didn't know much about Otis Frazier III before he landed at UTEP, the newcomer made his presence felt in the season opener. The combo guard flexed a ton of versatility as a combo guard/forward and he proved he can provide a scoring spark for this team.
Frazier III was someone that played primarily at the forward spot with his previous school at George Mason. It seems like he's taking on this new role at the small forward with determination to earn more minutes.
Sibley as the 7th man?
Call me crazy, but I loved the strategy of having Jamari Sibley come off the bench for this squad on Monday. In the transition from playing the No. 4 to the small forward position, Sibley needed to essentially learn a whole new set of skills he needs to bring as a combo guard. If he's a reliable off the bench scorer, Sibley's value could continue to increase with this team.
At 6-foot-8, I wouldn't be surprised to see Sibley continue to help in the frontcourt. Against Texas, he played on the perimeter and went 1-of-4 from 3-point range. He finished the game with seven points and seven boards, along with a pair of blocks. Look to both Frazier and Sibley to battle for minutes all year along.
Player of the game: Ze'Rik Onyema
A fan favorite, Ze'Rik Onyema stormed through in a big way against Texas and his former coach Rodney Terry, who is the associate head coach with the Longhorns. Onyema looked stronger than last year and added an outside jumper to his offensive game, hitting a 3-pointer in the second half yesterday.
He finished the season opener with 10 points, four rebounds and a steal in 22 minutes off the bench. If Onyema can stay out of foul trouble, be reliable on offense and continue to bring a spark, he could be a reliable asset for this squad.
How the former Miners did last night
Four former UTEP players had their respective first games last night in the college basketball season opener:
- Souley Boum (Xavier 96 - Morgan State 73): 23 points, 5 steals
- Keonte Kennedy (Memphis 76 - Vanderbilt 67): 2 points, 3 rebounds in 20 minutes
- Tydus Verhoeven (Northwestern 85 - Chicago State 54): 2 points, 3 rebounds, 5 fouls
- Bonke Maring (FIU 77 - Houston Christian 66): 8 points, 8 rebounds & 1 block
Mario McKinney should be back by NM State
The Miners were without shooting guard Mario McKinney, who is currently away due to personal reasons. Per Golding, McKinney could rejoin the team as early as this week to try and compete against his former team in NM State. The Aggies and Miners will do battle on Saturday, Nov. 12.
“We believe in taking care of our players," Golding said. "He needed time and space. He’s still around and I’ve loved how Mario has progressed.