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CUSA Tournament Final: UTEP men’s basketball falls to Western Kentucky

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CUSA Tournament Final: UTEP men’s basketball falls to Western Kentucky


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HUNTSVILLE, ALA. — All of UTEP men’s basketball undoubted strengths — toughness, resilience, a scrappy defense, heart — lack one important attribute.

None of those positives put the ball in the basket. That’s been a recurring problem throughout the year, and at the absolute worst time, in the middle of the second half of the Conference USA title game against Western Kentucky, that was the Miners’ demise in a 78-71 loss that ended their season.

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This time the big second-half run went against them, as UTEP missed eight consecutive shots and a 53-47 lead with 13:47 to play became a 60-53 deficit with 8:51 left. This time, a Miner team that defined itself with big comebacks, including an early rally from a 17-4 hole in this game, couldn’t find its way back.

The heart and fight was there, the balance on the tightrope wasn’t and the Miners finished their remarkable run, and their five-game winning streak, with an 18-16 record that does give them some momentum into next year.

Zid Powell closed his career with 21 points, including one-man runs of 8-0 and 6-0 when UTEP was successfully digging itself out of holes, but he didn’t have enough scoring help. The Miners shot 39%, including an 0-of-10 start when they fell behind by 14 points in the first seven minutes, and had 19 turnovers.

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They’ve overcome numbers like that before, but it’s not very likely, and at the biggest moment, likely held.

Miners down 4 at the half

UTEP overcame a nightmare start to take a brief lead, but a 7-0 Western Kentucky run late in the first half gave the Toppers a 40-36 lead at the half.

The Miners missed their first 10 shots and had six turnovers as WKU ran out to a 17-4 lead, but UTEP joined the battle with a 10-0 run over 1:24, then Powell later scored eight unanswered points in 1:21. That was the start of a 10-0 run that put the Miners up 30-29.

In that first 10-point run that rescued UTEP from its awful start, freshman Trey Horton hit two 3-pointers that seemed to ease the Miners’ nerves.

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They were outshot 55%-39% in the opening half but made 5-of-12 threes (they were 6-of-16 on twos) and made 9-of-12 free throws to WKU’s 4-of-4 despite out-fouling the Hilltoppers 9-8.

Powell went to the locker room with 10 points and Otis Frazier added nine.

Up next

The NCAA tournament selection show is Sunday at 4 p.mm. Mountain time on CBS and ESPN.

Bret Bloomquist can be reached at bbloomquist@elpasotimes.com; @Bretbloomquist on Twitter.



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Kentucky

First Down Kentucky: Canceled Visits

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First Down Kentucky: Canceled Visits


Things happen fast in the transfer portal, for better or worse. It’s been more of the latter for the Kentucky football program as the second week of the spring transfer portal window kicks off.

Late Sunday night we learned Greedy Vance would not be making his way to Lexington after committing to USC during a visit to the West Coast over the weekend. The Cats took another swing on the highest-ranked available in the portal. Despite making some early contact, a home run is not on the horizon.

Former Oregon State running back Damien Martinez initially planned to make trips to Kentucky and Tennessee. The Knoxville trip was quickly scratched. This morning we learned Martinez will not be traveling to Lexington this week.

Entertaining the thought of adding a piece like Martinez was exciting, albeit a long shot. Kentucky added Chip Trayanum this offseason, while Miami just lost their top rusher to the portal. The Hurricanes are willing to spend more to make Martinez the man, which is why he’ll likely commit to Miami this weekend.

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Kentucky is not completely empty-handed. The Wildcats are hosting Rutgers FL Rene Konga today, however, this Martinez development is what you would call “bad news” and I’m afraid there’s a little bit more of that to share Monday morning.

Kentucky Playing Catch Up with Tavion Wallace

Following last year’s victory over Florida, Trevin Wallace said he wasn’t the best athlete in his family. Tavion Wallace was sitting just off to the side, ranked as one of the top 50 players in America. The younger Wallace always enjoyed his time in Lexington, but it’s becoming clearer that he’s ready to take a different path at the collegiate level.

The No. 41 player in the 2025 recruiting class tells On3’s Chad Simmons he will be taking four official visits this summer and Kentucky is not one of them. That shouldn’t be too alarming. After all, he’s been to Kentucky so many times, does he really need an official visit? The problem is that Florida State is leading the charge, as they seemingly have been for most of his recruitment. He reiterated that the Seminoles are the team to beat and it’s hard to see a path where Kentucky can catch them.

“Florida State makes me feel special…,” he said. “What makes Florida State my top school is the consistency. It feels like family every time I go back for a visit. The coaches are great, their message is always the same and they want to make me a better man and better player. That always stood out to me.”

Not All Bad News

Elsewhere around the world of Kentucky football recruiting, the Wildcats are gaining even more ground for Marquise Davis. Sources tell KSR the Top 200 running back had a great unofficial visit to Kentucky over the weekend, his second straight week in Lexington. He could become a blockbuster addition for the program when Davis is expected to announce his commitment this summer.

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Brock Vandagriff Bagged a Bird

I would never consider myself an avid outdoorsman. Kentucky QB Brock Vandagriff is keeping up to date with the latest hunting schedule. Over the weekend Vandagriff enjoyed one of his favorite hobbies by going into the woods and retrieving a turkey. Is this an impressive haul? You tell me.

A Louisville Product goes Re-Portaling

Terez Traynor has multiple stops throughout his college career. The Louisville Doss product initially attended WKU. He went west and put up numbers at Idaho, then jumped up a level to Tulane this winter. After one spring practice, he’s back on the move. The timing is not coincidental. Shortly after this news surfaced, On3’s Pete Nakos predicted Jon Sumrall would land Khai Prean, a former LSU wide receiver who was a four-star talent coming out of high school.





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Johnell Davis drawing interest from Kentucky

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Johnell Davis drawing interest from Kentucky


Mark Pope is making moves in the transfer portal, and he reportedly has Kentucky in the mix for arguably the best player in it.

According to JJ Metz of FAU Owl’s Nest, Florida Atlantic guard Johnell Davis is considering Kentucky. Trilly Donovan has since confirmed on Discord that Kentucky is in the mix.

Davis, a four-year player with one year of eligibility left, was instrumental in helping the Owls make their magical Final Four run in 2023. That season saw the 6-foot-4, 203-pound guard average 13.8 points on 48.6% shooting (35.7% from deep), 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.5 steals per game.

This past season, Davis averaged 18.2 points on 48.3% shooting (41.7% on 3s), 6.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per contest. He is CBS Sports’ top-ranked transfer in this cycle.

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It initially looked like Davis would follow former FAU head coach Dusty May to Michigan. However, 247 Sports’ Travis Branham said that was no longer the case.

The Wildcats have landed Drexel center Amari Williams and are making a push for Utah State forward Great Osobor. However, it’s unclear what backcourt options they’re strongly in the mix for. They’ve reached out to a host of players, but in the public eye, there hasn’t been anyone they appear to be at or near the top with.

Davis would certainly come out of left field, as there were no previous reports of interest in him, though we can be sure Mark Pope found a way to contact him since he’s reached out to just about every notable transfer.

A Sea of Blue comes jam-packed with the best Kentucky Wildcats links, news, analysis, and some other fun stuff for our readers, so make sure you like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. GO CATS!!!

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BYU transfer Richie Saunders visiting Kentucky

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BYU transfer Richie Saunders visiting Kentucky


Mark Pope has been a busy man since becoming the Kentucky Wildcats’ head coach, and he’s shown no sign of slowing down.

Over the last week, Pope has flown across the country to meet with various prospects while also returning to host Amari Williams for a visit this weekend, which led to a commitment from the Drexel center. Pope also scored a commitment from former BYU Cougars signee Collin Chandler.

Now, we have another reported visitor, and it’s one of Pope’s former players.

Per KSR’s Matt Jones, BYU guard Richie Saunders is set to visit Kentucky on Sunday and Monday. Saunders will have two years of eligibility remaining at his next school.

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A class of 2020 recruit, Saunders served a two-year Mormon mission before joining the Cougars in 2022. In his debut season, the 6-foot-5 native of Utah averaged 5.5 points on 45.3% shooting (33.3% from deep), 2.4 rebounds, and 0.8 assists in 15.9 minutes per game.

This past season, Saunders went for 9.6 points on 52.3% shooting (36.4% from deep), 4.1 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 20.7 minutes per game. His highlight of the season was 20 points on 7/12 shooting (3/6 from deep) in a 68-63 defeat at Iowa State. He came off the bench in both seasons.

Kentucky has yet to land a BYU transfer after Aly Khalifa went to Louisville, while Dallin Hall is not considering the Wildcats. You’d think Pope will manage to bring at least one of his former players to Lexington, so perhaps that will be Saunders.

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A Sea of Blue comes loaded with Kentucky Wildcats news, analysis, and some other fun stuff, so like’ our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. GO CATS!!





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