College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, March 2, 2010
After starting their Conference USA slate 1-1, the UTEP Miners went on to win their next 13 straight, culminating in Tuesday's 80-76 victory at Marshall, a win which clinched the regular-season championship.
Led by leading-scorer Randy Culpepper's 32 points, the Miners overcame a 7-point half time deficit with 51 second half points to post their seventh consecutive road win. Culpepper nailed 7 of 11 3-point shots and was 11-for-18 overall.
The 23-5 Miners are 14-1 in the conference and seek to wrap up the season in good fashion when they face 2nd place UAB at home on Saturday. Winning the regular season does not guarantee an NCAA bid, though the Miners - along with UAB - seem deserving. The winner of next week's conference tournament gets the automatic bid.
Notable: Playing for the first time since 1990 as a #1-ranked team, Syracuse easily handled St. John's, 85-66, assuring themselves of the conference championship and the #1 seed in next week's Big East tournament. The Orangemen, 28-2 and 15-2 in the conference, finish the regular season at Louisville on Saturday.
Ohio State earned the #1 seed in the Big Ten tourney with a 73-57 win over Illinois in their final game of the season. The win gave the Buckeyes a 14-4 record in the conference, assuring them of at least a share of the outright title. Purdue (12-4) has yet to face Indiana on Wednesday and finishes at Penn State, Saturday. Michigan State, also 12-4, finishes with a pair of home games, Thursday vs. Penn St. and Sunday against in-state rival, Michigan.