2 last chances before SWAC: Golden Lions wind down nonconference portion

If the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions can prevent second-half runs that have taken them out of basketball games, they could have a competitive weekend in the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational hosted by Texas-El Paso.

UAPB, which has lost seven straight, has two chances left to earn a second win of the nonconference slate — which it has not done in coach George Ivory’s five seasons at the helm — starting with tonight’s meeting with UTEP. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. Central.

Following Tuesday’s 76-46 defeat at Akron, the Lions (1-9) are looking to keep pace with UTEP (4-5) tonight from start to finish. The Miners of Conference USA are coming off a 91-84 triple-overtime victory at home over Oregon on Wednesday, their first win over a team from a Power-Six conference in five tries this season.

Oregon is one of those teams that pulled away late from UAPB for decisive victories, beating the Lions 80-59 on Dec. 1. So, Ivory might be able to find in UTEP some similarities to Oregon.

But the Miners have had the Lions’ number, having won all seven previous meetings. That’s not a good omen for a UAPB team that’s ranked 343rd out of 345 Division I teams in scoring offense (51.7 points per game) entering the week and 341st in scoring margin (minus-19.7 per game), field goal percentage (34.7 percent) and rebound margin (minus-11 per game).

Part of the Lions’ offensive woes may be attributed to a lack of a true center. Senior Terrell Kennedy has been out for the past three weeks with a foot injury, and junior Daniel Broughton has only played in two games this season coming off knee surgery. He did not play at Akron, and it was unknown why.

Ivory couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

The Miners aren’t much farther ahead in points per game with 60.9. They have three players who average double figures, sophomore swingman Julian Washburn (13.3), graduate student guard Konner Tucker (12.5) and junior center John Bohannon (12.3).

Tonight’s game is part of a four-team tournament, which tips off at 6 p.m. Central today with Central Michigan taking on Nebraska. The losers of both games today will play at 6 p.m. Sunday, while the winners will play at 8 p.m. for the championship.

After the Invitational, UAPB won’t play again until it starts SWAC play at home Jan. 2 against Mississippi Valley State.

UAPB (1-9) at UTEP (4-5)

• What: First game of Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational

• When: 8 p.m. Central today

• Where: Don Haskins Center, El Paso, Texas

• Series: UTEP leads 7-0; last meeting UTEP 79, UAPB 51, at El Paso on Dec. 29, 2011