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Herd takes on depleted UTEP tonight

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Marshall's basketball program has its troubles, but at least they're not off the court.

Mostly. There was that Elijah Pittman problem, which likely has entered the past tense. That DeAndre Kane separation plays out on other courts, particularly in Ames, Iowa.

At least coach Tom Herrion hasn't had to deal with that of his Thundering Herd's next opponent, Texas-El Paso. The Miners' roster was overhauled to some extent this week, and not by choice.

Three UTEP players, including leading scorer McKenzie Moore, were kicked out of the program, the school announced Tuesday. An investigation revealed the three wagered on sporting events, though university officials say they didn't bet on UTEP events or participate in point shaving.

By NCAA rule, they are suspended for a season and lose a year of eligibility. As all three are upperclassmen, their college careers are over, a UTEP statement declared. They are no longer enrolled.

Moore, a 6-6 junior guard, averaged 13.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in 27 minutes. The other two players, 5-11 senior guard Justin Crosgile and 6-7 junior swingman Jalen Ragland, combined for 9.1 points in 36.6 minutes per game, with seven starts between them.

The Miners (10-6, 0-1) are down to nine scholarship players and six walk-ons. Those include football players Aaron and Alvin Jones, who joined the program this week.

Marshall will take on the overhauled Miners at 9:05 tonight at the Haskins Center, which also serves as the site of the Conference USA tournament in March.

As much as the roles on the team were rearranged, the Miners proved they're not down and out. They lost at home, but it was 68-60 to consensus contender Charlotte.

Some say a loss is a loss is a loss, but that result is aesthetically better than the Thundering Herd's 90-81 loss Thursday to Texas-San Antonio. The Herd (6-10, 0-1) lost to a team closer to bottom-scraping 351st in the Rating Percentage Index simulations than MU's 266th or thereabouts.

UTEP still has some horses in its stable, led by 2013 third-team all-conference pick Julian Washburn. He takes over as the team's leading scorer (11.7 points per game), followed by another fourth-year veteran, 6-11 John Bohannon (10.8 points, 8.1 rebounds). New talent includes 6-8 freshman Vince Hunter (9.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists).

For the Herd, Kareem Canty's 26 points against UTSA lifted his average to 17.0, and he is dishing out 6.7 assists per game.

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.

 


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