Photo by Ruben R. Ramirez | El Paso Herald Post
The UTEP basketball team got a much-needed victory as the Miners used hot shooting from 3-point range to down FIU, 75-59, in front of 457 fans on Friday night.
The Miners (9-10, 5-8 Conference USA) shot 50 percent (12-24) from beyond the arc, while receiving 23 points off the bench. UTEP got off to a sizzling start from downtown, making 8-of-10 and finished 10-of-16 in the first half.
The Panthers (9-13, 2-11 C-USA) lost their 10th consecutive league game, falling to 2-11.
“We challenged the guys to come out with unbelievable energy, activity and great communication,” said third-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry. “You have to have that in playing against a high-possession team that will really push the ball in transition and communicate getting back with guys. I thought we came out with really good energy on both ends of the floor.”
Souley Boum led all scorers with 22 points on 5-of-7 shooting threes, and Christian Agnew came off the bench and chipped in with 12 points, hitting 5-of-6 from the foul line. Keonte Kennedy scored 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor, and added six rebounds with two steals.
The Miners tamed the Panthers, outscoring them 41-32 in the first half and 34-27 in the second. Early in the ball game, UTEP was down 16-12, but used a big run in the middle of the first half to pull away from FIU, and never relinquishing the lead afterwards.
After FIU took a 21-20 edge on an Eric Lovett 3-pointer at the 10:56 mark. The Miners responded with an 18-3 run over a 7:59 span. Boum started the run with a three, while Agnew made a driving layup on a fast break to take a 25-21 lead. Kristian Sjolund and Boum followed with back-to-back threes that gave UTEP a 10-point lead (31-21). Isaiah Banks stopped the 11-0 run with a three, but the Miners built a 36-24 advantage on a Sjolund three, an Agnew pullup jumper and a driving layup by Kennedy.
“We settled in against [FIU’s] pressure in the first four minutes in terms of their run and jump,” Terry said. “We were able flow and get into our offense a little bit. We ended the half with 10 assists. When we get to about 16, 18 or 20 assists, we’re a pretty good in terms of sharing the basketball.”
UTEP finished with 16 assists, while outrebounding FIU, 33-28. The Miners also tallied eight offensive boards and outscored the Panthers 15-6 on second chance points.
Tydus Verhoeven tallied a season-high three assists and added five points with four rebounds. Bryson Williams tallied five points, six boards and two assists, while Sjolund scored nine points (3-6 3-point FG) off the bench.
Gilles Dekoninck tallied two points in over two minutes off the bench, while true freshman Vuk Vulikic added two boards and a pair of assists in over five minutes off the bench. Jamal Bieniemy scored three points with four rebounds and two assists.
Lovett and Javaunte Hawkins each led FIU with 11 points, while Banks added 10 points and a team-high six rebounds. Antonio Daye Jr. entered the ball game averaging 18.0 points, but was held to nine points on 3-of-8 shooting from the field. However, Daye Jr. dished out a game-high five assists.
The Panthers shot 43.1 percent (22-51) from the floor and only went to the line eight times, hitting four free throws.
Up next, UTEP will host FIU again on Saturday with tipoff set for 7 p.m. in the Haskins Center. The Miners and Panthers will be streamed on ESPN+, and can be heard on the home of UTEP Basketball 600 ESPN El Paso and the UTEP Miners app with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher calling the action.
Gallery by Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post