Arizona has shown it knows how to win at home. Now it’s time for the Wildcats to prove they can do the same on the road.
On Friday night, No. 3 Arizona travels to El Paso to take on Tim Floyd’s UTEP team. The two former WAC rivals are meeting for the first time since November of 2012, when the UA came out on top 72-51.
The Wildcats will be the highest ranked team to ever play at the Don Haskins Center.
UTEP, 6-3 on the season, could pose a serious threat to Arizona’s undefeated record. The Miners own victories against Washington State and Xavier and fell just short versus Washington and Colorado State.
A trio of big men lead UTEP, starting off with sophomore forward Vince Hunter. A 6’8 Detroit native, he leads the team in both points (16.8) and rebounds (10.1). Facing the Huskies, he went off for a 20 point, 13 board outing, including eight made free throws.
The Miners also receive double digits in scoring from 6’8 wing Julian Washburn and 6’10 center Cedric Lang.
As a team, UTEP shoots 47 percent from the field and averages over 70 points per game. They’re not a great shooting team but Earvin Morris Jr. and C.J. Cooper can both knock down three pointers.
Arizona’s biggest challenge might be dealing with the hostile atmosphere, as a sell-out is expected. If the Wildcats can get off to a roaring start offensively like they have the past two games, they should set the tempo and quiet the UTEP faithful.
But if the UA returns to its old habits and fails to establish an early lead, it could spark the Miners’ confidence.
Behind seniors like Lang, Cooper, and Washburn, UTEP is an experienced enough team to handle adversity. However, they don’t have the athleticism or size to match up with Arizona’s superstar wings, Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Even if the Miners stick around past halftime, Arizona should be able to put them away in the late-going.