Conference USA Tournament 2013: Breaking Down Southern Miss vs. UTEP

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Conference USA Tournament 2013: Breaking Down Southern Miss vs. UTEP
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After an 80-69 victory over Houston on Thursday, UTEP faces off with No. 2 seed Southern Miss in the semifinals of the 2013 Conference USA tournament.

Expect the ball to keep on rolling for the Miners.

Southern Miss disposed of UAB on Thursday, 81-66. The sharp-shooting team hit on 53 percent of their attempts from the floor and outrebounded the Blazers, 35-22.

UTEP and Southern Miss met once this season in one of the lowest-scoring games of the year. Southern Miss ended up winning that game, 45-39. While the Golden Eagles shot 33 percent, the Miners shot 30 percent. Southern Miss also outrebounded UTEP, 35-29.

Based on the overall play of the two teams this season, it would be easy to give the win to the Golden Eagles. Southern Miss ranks 13th in the nation in field-goal percentage. UTEP ranks 100th. Southern Miss ranks 25th in total rebounding rate, via UTEP ranks 236th. Southern Miss ranks 58th in opponents' field-goal percentage. UTEP ranks 87th.

But look at the Miners' last three games and you may change your mind.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports
Junior forward Julian Washburn has been hot down the stretch for UTEP.

Who will win on Friday?

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In matchups against No. 20 Memphis, Southern Methodist and Houston, UTEP has shot a combined 51 percent (74-of-145). In those same matchups, the Miners have held opponents to 42.5 percent shooting (74-of-174).

The Miners beat Houston and SMU. They lost to Memphis, 56-54. After the Tigers barely escaped on March 5, Memphis head coach Josh Pastner praised the Miners, calling them a "very good basketball team, a well-coached team," via ESPN.

Keep in mind, UTEP is 18-13 this season (10-6 C-USA). The fact that the Miners caught the attention of a ranked team late in the season tells you something. UTEP has gotten better since its last matchup with Southern Miss.

UTEP has gone 4-1 in its last five games. Southern Miss has gone 3-2, including a loss to 13-19 Marshall and a blowout loss to Memphis.

Southern Miss may have had a better overall season, but UTEP is playing better down stretch. Expect the Miners to emerge victorious on Friday.

Prediction: UTEP 72, Southern Miss 68

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