Men’s Basketball Preview: FAU hosts a pair of Texas universities while looking to snap its two-game losing streak

With only five home games left, the Owls are looking to improve their record and push for a conference tournament spot

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Max Jackson

Owls’ sophomore center Ronald Delph goes up for a successful two-­handed dunk early in the second half of FAU’s game versus Florida State on Dec. 19. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Hans Belot Jr., Contributing Writer

After losing both games last week, including its worst loss of the season against conference-leading University of Alabama at Birmingham, Florida Atlantic men’s basketball lost three of its last four games and has dropped to the bottom-third of the conference standings.

This week, the Owls (6-18, 4-7 Conference USA) will host a pair of Texas schools: the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners (4-20, 2-9 Conference USA) on Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. and the University of Texas at El Paso Miners (13-11, 5-6 Conference USA) on Saturday, Feb. 13, at 6 p.m.

Here’s what you need to know for both matchups:

UTSA Roadrunners:

Just like Florida Atlantic, UTSA has been struggling this season, and one of its main problems has been defense. The team is surrendering 85.2 points per game and is being outscored by 12.9 points per game, both ranking last in Conference USA.

The Roadrunners are currently on a six-game losing streak, where they have given up 74.8 points per game.

Perhaps UTSA’s struggles on defense have been from the inability to defend the 3-pointer, as the team has allowed opponents to shoot 41 percent from behind the arc, which ranks second to last in C-USA.

The Roadrunners also rank tenth in C-USA in scoring at 72.3 points per game, led by sophomore Christian Wilson’s 18.1 points per game on 41 percent shooting.

However, Wilson has missed nine games due to an arrest earlier in the season for marijuana possession and was suspended indefinitely by the team. He returned in 85-79 loss to the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Islanders and scored six points.

UTSA has struggled in other areas, but most notably it ranks last in C-USA in 3-pointers at 30 percent and its leading scorer hasn’t helped. Wilson is only shooting 22 percent from behind the arc but the team’s second leading scorer, Ryan Bowie, — with 17.5 points per game — is No. 1 on the team from three-point range, shooting 40 percent.

UTEP Miners:

Currently riding a two-game winning streak, the Miners’ up-and-down season rolls on, but the team has yet to win on the road (0-7). UTEP ranks sixth in C-USA in scoring at 76.2 points per game and its balanced scoring yields four players averaging double-digit scoring.

The team’s scoring is led by junior guard Lee Moore’s 14.3 points per game to go along with his 5.5 rebounds.

In its last two games, UTEP averaged 102.5 points per game, including a high-scoring affair versus Marshall University that led to a 112-108 win — the highest scoring game in NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball this season.

Although their defense these past two games has been subpar, allowing 98.5 points per game, the Miners rank fourth in the conference in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot 41 percent from the field on the season.

The Miners are one of the best ball moving teams in C-USA, averaging 15.5 assists per game, led by junior Dominic Artis’ 4.6 assists per game.

PREDICTIONS:

Although UTSA is struggling and FAU has a better overall record, the Roadrunners will not go down without a fight as they are accustomed to close matchups. In nine of their games this season, the final scoring margin was within 10 points.

The Owls have struggled to score this season, only averaging 65 points per game, but the Roadrunners’ defensive struggle will show and FAU will try to take advantage. FAU’s leading scorer redshirt junior Adonis Filer missed last game because of a concussion and it’s unclear whether he will be available for this game.

If Filer is not ready to go, FAU’s bench will play a big role in this game. Junior Marquan Botley led the team in scoring in the loss versus UAB with 16 points and will look to continue to provide that spark off the bench.

Against UTEP, the Owls will have to come out strong defensively in order to avoid an offensive shootout with the Miners.

FAU ranks eighth in C-USA in scoring defense — allowing only 74 points per game.

The Miners shot 51 percent and 41 percent from the three-point arc in their last two games, which means FAU will have to play a mistake-free team defense in order to have a chance against UTEP.

The Owls rank tenth in field goal percentage defense in C-USA this season, allowing opponents to shoot 46 percent from the field. This number will have to decrease in order for the Owls to win this game.

Hans Belot Jr. is a contributing writer with the University Press. To contact him on this or other stories, he can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.