Photo by Ruben R. Ramirez | El Paso Herald Post

C-USA Tournament Bound! UTEP tops Middle Tennessee 60-56

MURFREESBORO, Tn – Bryson Williams made a pair of free throws with 27 seconds left, giving UTEP the go-ahead lead two-point lead, while Souley Boum iced the contest with two of his own with nine seconds left in regulation as the Miners defeated Middle Tennessee, 60-56, on Wednesday night in the Murphy Center.

Daryl Edwards led the way with 25 points, surging UTEP to the Conference USA Championships in Frisco, Texas, March 11-14.

Edwards shot 11-for-18 from the field, while draining a trio of three-point buckets. He added four assists and three rebounds. Edwards is averaging 28.3 points per game his last three outings, while shooting 57.1 percent from the field and 53.6 percent (15-28) from three-point range. Edwards has made 71 three-pointers this season, becoming the sixth Miner to make 70-plus threes during a single season.

“Daryl’s playing with a lot of urgency,” second-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “He’s not just shooting threes, he driving that ball and has been very effective doing so.”

UTEP (16-14, 7-10 Conference USA) won its third consecutive game in league play for the first time in three seasons, while allowing 58.0 points per game during that span in the month of March. The Miners dominated MT (7-23, 3-14 C-USA) on the boards, 37-29, while holding the Blue Raiders to 37.7 percent shooting from the field.

“It’s the best time of year to play and I give our guys a lot of credit in terms of working the game,” Terry said. “[MT] made some big shots and C.J. [Jones] got hot there, but we had to withstand it and continue to do a better job at attacking the 1-3-1 [defense]. We did a much better job in the second half of attacking the 1-3-1.”

UTEP could never put MT away as it led by eight points early in the second half, and had a pair of six-point leads. But it wasn’t about the offense, it was the defense that came up with big moments.

Tydus Verhoeven, who played a season-high 32 minutes, blocked a pair of shots in the second half. The second was key, as he blocked an Antonio Green shot attempt with 41 seconds remaining and the game tied at 56. Williams drew a foul on the ensuing possession with the Miners in bonus and hitting both with ease to make the count 58-56.

C.J. Jones, who led MT with 22 points, missed a jumper with 12 seconds remaining that led to a Boum board and his two free throws that put the game away.

Boum tallied 13 points, connected on a pair of three-pointers and secured seven rebounds with two assists and a steal. Williams followed with nine points, a team-high eight rebounds and tied his career high with a trio of steals. Despite going 3-for-15 from the field, in which his shots were rolling out the rim, he scored four of the Miners’ final six points.

“Bryson kept working and got to the foul line and made some big foul shots for us late. It was a frustrating night for him, but his teammates came in and picked him up,” Terry said. “Guys came off the bench and played really well. I thought Kaden guarded really hard, I thought Deon gave us a good lift and I thought Efe’s short minutes were good for us as well. This time of year, you need everybody. You need guys to come in and hold it down.”

Deon Stroud played 14 minutes off the bench, scoring six points that included a three-point play in during the first half. Kaden Archie played a solid 19 minutes, recording three rebounds and played tough defense. Efe Odigie scored two points, playing just under four minutes.

Verhoeven recorded six rebounds and two points with an assist. Jordan Lathon, who played in foul trouble, hit a three-pointer, tied for the team lead with four dimes and gathered four rebounds.

MT’s only lead came at the beginning of the contest when it was up 2-0. The Blue Raiders tied the game three times during the second half, but Edwards gave the Miners the lead back with clutch buckets. The first came early in the second period, knotted at 26, when Edwards hit a three that started a 6-0 run. The graduate transfer from LSU then knocked down a midrange jumper with the game tied at 50 at the 5:45 mark.

UTEP has won three consecutive league games for the first time since the 2016-17 season when it won five-consecutive, while advancing to the C-USA Tournament for the first time since the 2017-18 season.

The Miners’ 16 wins this season are the most since the 2015-16 season, in which UTEP finished 19-14. That season was also the last winning campaign. UTEP has also won seven league games, surpassing its total from last season (three wins), and the 2017-18 campaign (six wins).

Reggie Scurry tallied 17 points, while MT recorded seven offensive boards after averaging 10.9 per game.

Up next, UTEP will travel to Houston, Texas, to take on Rice on Saturday, March 7. The Miners recently defeated the Owls, 68-62, on March 1, erasing a 19-point deficit. The Miners also chalked up their first road win in over a year, registering a 72-64 victory in Houston on Jan. 23. Boum and Edwards combined for 99 points in those two meetings against Rice.