EL PASO, Texas — Thursday, March 10, 2011. I remember this day like it was yesterday. In fact, I can still taste the tequila shot I regretfully downed at 11 a.m Mountain Time at famed Crawdaddy’s Bar & Grill on Cincinnati Ave. Liquor in the morning was not a normal practice for me, but, I needed something to take the edge off before I sprinted to the historic Don Haskin’s Center to a game I was already late to.
My beloved Blazers were the No. 1 seed in the CUSA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Fresh off a CUSA regular season title, the basketball gods cursed my team with a match up against the No. 8 seeded East Carolina Pirates. I refer to the matchup negatively because it’s well known and documented (at least in my mind) that beating a team twice is tough, but beating them three times in the same season is a monumental task.
On that Thursday, 1,274 miles from Birmingham, Ala. my worst nightmare came in to reality. The Blazers lost to the Pirates in overtime. We had just beaten them in Birmingham in a CUSA title clinching game five days prior. I ran up quiet the tab at Crawdaddy’s that afternoon.
Nationally speaking, the rivalry between the UTEP Miners and the UAB Blazers is not well known and covered. However, fans donning the orange and blue and green and gold know each time these teams play, you better push back whatever plans you may have for after the game. The two teams have faced each other 16 times with 14 of the games taking place as CUSA members. They’ve played to overtime, double overtime, triple overtime, and the series is currently tied at eight wins apiece.
UTEP and UAB will meet up for the 17th time this Saturday, January 9 at Bartow Area. Over the last six games, the teams have played to triple overtime, double overtime, and overtime. The three regulation games were decided by a combined five points. Each team will be looking to break the series tie and take the lead and bragging rights for a calendar year. Before Saturday’s showdown, let’s take a look at some of the epic games the teams have played on the hardwood.
January 30, 2010
UTEP 74 UAB 65 2OT
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – You could hear a pin drop in Bartow Arena with 2:41 left in regulation. The near capacity crowd stood silent and looked on as both team’s medical staffs tended to the two all-conference guards, Aaron Johnson and Randy Culpepper. The pair’s heads collided during a drive to the basket by Johnson. After a couple of minutes, Culpepper was able to get up and was clear to go back into the game.
My seats were in the upper section of mid-court and even I could see the puddle of blood next to Johnson. The game stopped for 10 minutes and the star UAB guard was sent to the locker room and did not return that night. It was later announced he had a broken nose.
Once play resumed, the intensity returned and in the waning moments of the game, the Miners were sure they had won on a half court lob pass dunk from Arnett Moultrie to Julyan Stone. The shot was waved off due to basket interference from Stone. The game proceeded to go into two overtimes with the Miners finally prevailing victorious.
The Blazers were ranked No. 25 coming into the game and have not been ranked since. The Miners went on to be the regular season Conference USA Champions.
January 11, 2011
UAB 100 UTEP 97 3OT
BIRMINGHAM, Alaa – I’ve always referred to this game as the “3 Game.” Three dagger three-pointers defined the back-and-forth battle that afternoon.
The first came with two-tenths of a second remaining in regulation when UTEP’s Christian Polk hit a three from downtown Birmingham to send the game into it’s first overtime.
The second, which was just as long, came with one second left in the first overtime when UTEP’s Randy Culpepper sent the game into it’s second overtime.
Finally, the game was sealed for the Blazers when Cameron Moore hit a fourth overtime preventing three-pointer with two seconds left on the clock. The Blazer’s went on to be the regular season Conference USA Champions, edging the Miners by one game.
January 30, 2013
UAB 78 UTEP 72 OT
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Miners came into this game with an 11-8 record which, was sub-par if you’d asked any EL Pasoan. The Blazers 9-12 record certainly didn’t stimulate basketball fans on the Southside. However, the mediocre play of both teams up to this game didn’t prevent them from adding another thriller to the UAB-UTEP series.
At the 15 minute mark of the second half, the Blazers had managed to only score a measly 26 points. After McKenzie Moore made a three-pointer to extend the Miner lead to 40-26, first year UAB coach Jerrod Haase called a timeout. It was in this timeout that I believe Coach Haase pulled out his cell phone and checked to see when the next flight was departing for Raleigh-Durham. Fortunately (especially now), Coach decided to stick around.
Out of the timeout the Blazers used a 22-7 run to make it 50-50 with 6:08 remaining in the game. The Miners went 2-5 at the charity stripe within the final minute of regulation to Allow UAB to tie it at 64 with a Jordan Swing layup. The Blazers never trailed in overtime and went on to win 78-72 snapping a six game losing streak.
As the two teams meet up this weekend one thing is for sure, it will be entertaining.