Gallery+Story: Miners shut down UTSA 69-51

UTEP held UTSA to under 29 percent shooting, while Keonte Kennedy (10 points, 14 rebounds) and Jamal Bieniemy (16 points, 10 rebounds) recorded double-doubles to lead the Miners to a 69-51 victory on Saturday night in front of 540 fans at the Haskins Center.

The Miners (8-8, 4-6 Conference USA) halted the Roadrunners’ (8-9, 4-6 C-USA) three-game winning streak as they held Jhivvan Jackson (seven points), Jordan Ivy-Curry (six points) and Keaton Wallace (15 points) to a combined 28 points after allowing the trio to score 65 on Thursday night.

“I thought our guys were really focused today during our walk-through and at shoot around today on what we had to do defensively,” third-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “I thought they came out and really played well together defensively. Our guards rebounded the ball, which was really big for us tonight. That was big in terms of our defense.”

For Kennedy, his 14 boards set a new career high after grabbing 13 a few nights ago in San Antonio. He’s the first Miner to post back-to-back double-doubles since the 2018-19 season, while his 27 total rebounds in the last two games are the most since Efe Odgie’s 32 boards in two games against UTSA on Jan. 3 and Jan. 5, 2019.

Bieniemy’s double-double was the first of his collegiate career, while his 10 rebounds are the most in a UTEP uniform. His career best is 11 rebounds, which came against UTSA as a sophomore at Oklahoma. Bieniemy also broke a five-game slump in which he didn’t hit double figures in scoring.

On Saturday night he found his stroke, hitting 6-of-12 from the field and going 3-for-3 from the foul line.

Souley Boum led all scorers with 20 points on 7-of-17 shooting from the floor and 6-of-7 from the foul line. Tydus Verhoeven scored seven points with seven boards, while Bryson Williams tallied nine rebounds and seven points.

Christian Agnew came off the bench and chipped in with seven points, while Gilles Dekoninck played significant minutes off the bench, recording two points on a pair of free throws, a rebound and steal.

The Miners outmuscled the Roadrunners on the boards, 45-27. UTEP tallied eight offensive boards, led by Verhoeven’s three, while outscoring UTSA 11-7 on second-chance points.

UTSA jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead. UTEP responded by taking a 17-16 advantage in the middle of the first and built that into an eight-point lead (26-18) at the 5:32 mark. Despite UTSA rallying, the Miners took a 32-29 lead into the locker room at the half.

Kennedy opened the second half with a three-pointer to go up six points. A Bieniemy jumper gave UTEP a 39-32 lead, but the Roadrunners would rally again, tying the contest at 44 with 11:35 to play. However, the Miners took over from that point.

After Jacob Germany’s field goal made it a five-point game (52-47) with just over eight minutes to play, UTEP went on a 13-0 run to take a commanding 18-point lead at the 3:36 mark. Boum scored six points during that stretch.

UTEP shot 88.9 percent (16-18) from the foul line and 44.6 percent from the floor. The 51 points allowed was the least yielded to a conference opponent during a victory since defeating Charlotte 57-53 on Jan. 26, 2019.

Up next,  UTEP will play at C-USA West Division leader UAB on Feb. 5 and 6. The Miners and Blazers will tipoff at 5:30 p.m. MT on Friday at 3:30 p.m. MT on Saturday.

Both contests can be heard on the home UTEP Basketball 600 ESPN El Paso and the UTEP Miners app with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher on the call. Both contests will be streamed on ESPN+.

Gallery by Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post