Diamond Head Classic Third Place Game: UTEP Miners vs Auburn Tigers

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic – Third Place Game
Stan Sheriff Center – Honolulu, Hawaii
UTEP Miners vs Auburn Tigers
Sunday, December 25, 2011, 7:30 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Opening Line: UTEP -1 1/2
Current Line: UTEP -2 1/2
Opening Total: 124 1/2
Current Total: 124
Opening Money Line: UTEP -125 / Auburn +105
Current Money Line: UTEP -135 / Auburn +115

Frankie Sullivan and Auburn are slight underdogs against UTEP in the third place game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.

The 5-6 UTEP Miners coached by Tim Floyd take on the 8-2 Auburn Tigers, coached by Tony Barbee in the third place game of the Diamond Head Classic Sunday evening. The Miners beat Clemson 61-48 in the first round of the tournament but lost to Kansas St 78-70 in the semifinals. UTEP also has losses to Texas-San Antonio, New Mexico St, Stephen F. Austin, Oregon, and UNLV. The Miners have a win over New Mexico St. UTEP Is a very young team with 9 freshmen on the roster but they are starting to gel.

Auburn beat Hawaii 65-62 in the quarterfinals here and lost to Long Beach St 64-43 in the semifinals Friday night. Auburn also lost to Seton Hall earlier in the season. Though the Tigers have 8 wins the only semi-quality win is over South Florida. UTEP leads the series 2-0 against Auburn but they haven’t played since 1986.

UTEP is being outscored 63.4-62.8 this season. The Miners shoot 45.5% from the field including 34.5% from 3 point range. UTEP makes 69% of their free throws. The Miners average 30.6 rebounds a game, and have a rebounding margin of  -2.1. UTEP averages 14.2 assists, 14.2 turnovers, 5 steals, and 3.7 blocks a game. UTEP opponents are shooting 42.1% from the field, including 36.7% from 3 point range. UTEP forces 12.9 turnovers a game.

UTEP guard Michael Perez averages 12.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.   Gabriel McCulley averages 11.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.7 steals a game and 1 block a game. He leads the team in rebounds, steals, and blocks. Forward Julian Washburn averages 10.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.3 steals a game.  John Bohannon and Cedrick Lang each average over 5 rebounds a game. Jacques Streeter leads the team in assists with 4.5 a game. Center Hooper Vint is day to day with a back injury, and forward Malcolm Moore is out for the season with a knee injury.

Auburn is outscoring opponents 68-62 this season. The Tigers are shooting 44.8% from the field, including 33.1% from 3 point range. Auburn makes 65.1% of their free throws. The Tigers average 35.8 rebounds a game and have a rebounding margin of +1.1. Auburn averages 13.6 assists, 14.4 turnovers, 7.7 steals, and 6.3 blocks a game. Tiger opponents are shooting 38.8% from the field, including 32% from 3 point range. Auburn forces 15.4 turnovers a game.

Auburn guard Frankie Sullivan averages 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.6 steals a game. He leads the team in scoring and steals, and is shooting 40.9% from 3 point range. Rob Chubb averages 10.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.4 blocks a game. Kenny Gabriel averages 10.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.5 blocks a game. He leads the team in rebounds and blocks. Chris Densen averages 10 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists. Varez Ward averages 9.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists to lead the team, and 1.1 steals a game. Forward Bernard Morena is day to day with a hand injury. Guards Josh Langford and and Tony Neysmith are suspended indefinitely.

Auburn is 2-2 against the spread and the total is 1-3 this season. UTEP is 6-1 ATS and the total is 3-4 this season. The Miners are 5-0 ATS overall, against teams with winning records, and in non-conference games, 4-1 after a straight up loss, and 7-2 after a cover. The Tigers are 7-1-1 after a double digit loss, 6-1 after failing to cover, 18-6-2 after a straight-up loss, 6-2 against teams with losing records, and after a straight up loss of 20 points or more, 5-2 after scoring 50 points or less, and 0-5-1 in neutral site games.

Auburn has fattened up on cupcakes so far this season, and has a gaudy 8-2 straight up record to show for it. UTEP meanwhile has played a very demanding schedule and has a 5-6 record. That explains why UTEP is a slight favorite in this neutral site contest. The Miners are very young but talented, and I like them to win a close game against the untested Tigers.

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