• UTEP enters Wednesday night’s game with a record of 11-5 (2-1 in Conference USA play, a game behind the Tigers). The Miners have lost three of their last four road games, at Ole Miss, Texas Tech, and Houston, but beat Oklahoma (in Oklahoma City) on December 21st. They beat Southern Miss, 56-49, in their last game, Saturday night in El Paso.
• Picked to finish third in C-USA’s preseason media poll, UTEP has beaten Memphis only once in nine meetings. The Miners won in El Paso on December 18, 1971 (Larry Finch’s junior season). The Tigers have won all four games since UTEP joined C-USA in 2005. (The six-point win on February 2, 2008, came during the U of M’s month-long run as the top-ranked team in the country.) Memphis won in El Paso last season, 70-63, behind 25 points from Tyreke Evans.
• There are Memphis connections galore in the Miner program. Coach Tony Barbee spent six years as an assistant on John Calipari’s staff at Memphis before taking over at UTEP in 2006. His record currently stands at 67-50, though he has yet to lead the Miners to the NCAA tournament. Barbee’s assistant, Tony Madlock, played for Memphis and was the point guard for the Tigers’ 1992 Elite Eight team. Another assistant, Milt Wagner, earned his degree at Memphis during his time as an assistant for Calipari.
No fewer than five Miner players hail from the Bluff City. Sophomore forward Arnett Moultrie (12.4 points, 7.1 rebounds) played at Raleigh-Egypt; junior guard Randy Culpepper (16.3 points) played at Sheffield; junior guard Gabriel McCulley played at Craigmont; and both junior guard Myron Strong and junior forward Jeremy Williams (9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds) played at Hamilton.
The Memphis quintet is complemented by Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter, who is averaging 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds in his first season as a Miner.
• Junior guard Elliot Williams has topped 30 points in each of the Tigers’ last two road games (at Southern Miss and Rice), but has been held under 20 in has last three games at FedExForum (Tennessee, Houston Baptist, East Carolina).
• A victory over UTEP would give Memphis 65 consecutive wins in Conference USA play, which would break the intra-conference record set by Kentucky in the SEC from 1945 to 1950.