Washington will take on the University of Texas El Paso in the final round of the Wooden Legacy Tournament on Sunday, November 30th at 7:00pm.
UTEP (4-0) will be fresh off of an impressive 77-73 win over Xavier. Currently, UTEP is 73rd according to the Pomeroy pyth. rating compared to 51st for the Huskies.
The Miners opened up the season by beating WSU 66-52. Victories over Princeton and New Mexico State followed.
UTEP's starting five last night: G CJ Cooper (Sr., 6-0, 190), G Omega Harris (Fr., 6-2, 170), F Vince Hunter (So., 6-8, 205), F Julian Washburn (Sr., 6-8, 210), F Cedrick Lang (Sr., 6-10, 255).
C Matt Wilms (So., 7-1, 230) is the first big man off the bench (it's also possible he could start), with guards Earvin Morris (Jr., 6-4, 185) and Lew Stallworth (Fr., 6-1, 190) rounding out the primary rotation.
Through four games Vince Hunter has been UTEP's main man. He has averaged well over a double-double, with 18.0ppg and 12.5rpg in just under 30 minutes a contest. He's shooting 49% from the field, but only 59% from the charity stripe. He has recorded a double-double in all four games.
Hunter's front court partner Cedrick Lang has contributed 12.3ppg and 8.3rpg.
CJ Cooper runs the offense, so it follows that he leads the team in assists with 4.8 per contest. It's far more impressive that he's turned the ball over only once a game. A near 5:1 assist to turnover ratio is simply too good to be sustainable. Oh, and he's shooting 52% from the field and 56% from three-point land.
Wilms' name jumps off the roster due to his height, but the 7-1 center struggled against Xavier. He went scoreless and grabbed a single board in 14 minutes. He averages 4.0ppg and just under 3.0rpg.
UTEP averages 1.05 points per possession (129th in the country) while allowing .96 points per possession (149th). For the sake of comparison, Washington averages 1.08ppp (90th) and allows .87ppp (47th).
The strengths of this team has been getting to the free throw line (free throw rate of 46.6, 60th) and controlling the boards (54.7% rebound rate, 54th). In terms of scoring, turnovers, blocks, assists, and so on, UTEP does not stand out from the pack.
Still, UTEP is a slightly better opponent than Long Beach State, which was Washington's toughest opponent at the time (a day ago). Considering the lack of quality opponents on the non-conference schedule, wins over top-100 teams like UTEP will be of surprising value come Selection Sunday.
Kemp had his first poor game of the season against Long Beach, largely as a result of foul trouble. Upshaw, on the other hand, continued to dunk and block every basketball within arm's reach. Dorsey has now put together three hot shooting games in a row, and NWG's shooting appears to be progressing back to the mean after a rough start.
The offense is slowly coming along as the defense continues to surprise. Washington is not an elite defensive team, but it has been two years or more since we've seen this level of commitment to on-ball pressure, and this may be the finest shot-blocking team in program history.
I'm growing a little more optimistic about this squad with each game.
Washington 76, UTEP 69