Clinching a share of the Conference USA title isn't good enough for Texas-El Paso.
The No. 24 Miners look to gain the outright crown and win their 13th straight Tuesday night when they visit Marshall, which has won seven in a row and features the nation's top shot blocker.Texas-El Paso (22-5, 13-1) was looking forward to this week after a 78-64 home win over Rice on Saturday. The victory clinched a tie for the title, with Memphis and UAB two games back."We didn't come into this season looking for a share of it," coach Tony Barbee said. "We came into this season looking for an outright title. We've got a lot of work to do. People have been asking me, 'Why aren't we cutting down nets, why aren't we celebrating?' I don't celebrate ties."The Miners need to win one of their two remaining games in order to celebrate, but don't want to wait until Saturday's home finale against UAB. They know it won't be easy on the road against Marshall (22-7, 10-4), which has not lost since Feb. 3 and will be playing its final home game.UTEP has been buoyed by newcomer Derrick Caracter, a Louisville transfer averaging 14.1 points and 8.8 rebounds. The 6-foot-9, 275-pound Caracter should have his hands full in his first encounter with 6-11, 215-pound freshman Hassan Whiteside.Whiteside is averaging 13.2 points and 9.0 rebounds, but has mainly turned heads with his NCAA-best 5.5 blocks per game. He has already set the school career record with 159 blocks, which is the 16th-highest single-season total in Division I history.Barbee was an assistant at Massachusetts -- his alma mater -- in the 1990s, and believes Whiteside is comparable to the Minutemen's star during that period."Whiteside reminds me of Marcus Camby, who I was around at UMass," Barbee said. "They have very similar attributes at this point of their careers, but Whiteside is even more polished offensively than Marcus was."Whiteside posted his third triple-double in a 121-115 triple-overtime victory over Central Florida on Saturday, piling up 14 points, 11 rebounds and a season-high 13 blocks.Chris Lutz made six 3-pointers and scored 25 points to lead Marshall, which shot 59.6 percent -- a season high against a Division I opponent. Lutz is among three seniors who will play their final home game Tuesday."The crowd was phenomenal and gave our kids energy down the stretch," coach Donnie Jones said. "I hope they come out on Tuesday for our three seniors because they deserve it."The Thundering Herd are the best offensive team in C-USA, leading the league in shooting percentage (48.3), 3-point percentage (38.7), points per game (80.8) and assists per contest (16.7)."Marshall is probably the most talented team in our conference," Barbee said. "They can score in a variety of ways, both inside and out."UTEP is 4-0 in C-USA games against Marshall, which is 14-2 at home. The Thundering Herd are the only team the Miners have not lost to since both joined the conference in 2005.