While much of the chatter regarding UTEP head coach Tim Floyd at this week’s Battle 4 Atlantis is focused on his ongoing feud with USC head coach Andy Enfield, the fact of the matter is that the man’s pretty good when it comes to basketball strategy. And that ability, along with the skill of his players, was on full display in the Miners’ 78-70 win over Tennessee.
Offensively the Miners shot 58% from the field, making up for their 3-for-10 night from beyond the arc by making 26 of their 40 field goal attempts inside of the arc. The lone signs of trouble for UTEP were their assist-to-turnover ratio (13 assists and 13 turnovers) and their hesitance to attack the Tennessee pressure during parts of the second half. The versatile McKenzie Moore led four starters in double figures with 19 points, and as a result of the victory UTEP (4-2 overall) remains undefeated against teams other than New Mexico State (0-2).
The defensive end is where UTEP did its best work, with a little help from a Tennessee squad that struggled with making layups. Using a variety of defenses, including a triangle-and-2, UTEP limited Tennessee to 34.9% shooting from the field and 3-for-21 from beyond the arc. The Volunteers managed to corral an impressive 54.2% of their missed shots, but their inability to take advantage of those extra scoring opportunities was a deciding factor.
UTEP advances to Friday’s semifinal round, where they’ll take on Iowa. Obviously the Miners will need to perform better on the glass (Cedric Lang accounted for one point and one rebound in 26 minutes of action) against the Hawkeyes, but with Floyd on the sidelines it’s safe to say that UTEP has a “puncher’s chance” at a second upset in as many days.