El Paso, Texas- The UTEP Miners Men’s Basketball team came with only a couple of minutes left to defeat the Rice Owls by the score of 70-67 Thursday night at the Don Haskins Center.
With the win, the Miners swept the Owls in the regular season series, improving their record to 17-12 overall and 10-7 in Conference USA play. The win also helped the Miners improve their seed to four in the conference tournament next week in Frisco, Texas.
Keonte Kennedy came off the bench to be the leading scorer for the Miners with 16 points, none more valuable than the three free throws hit with less than two minutes to go in the game to complicate things for the Owls in their final possessions.
Here’s what happened
- Tonight’s starting five for UTEP once again was Souley Boum, Tydus Verhoeven, Jamari Sibley, Jorell Saterfield and Jamal Beiniemy. After missing their first four shots the Miners heated up in a hurry after scoring their first basket at the 17:03 mark going on a 13-0 run in a little over three minutes.
- UTEP went on to lead by as many as 12-points later in the half. Still, Rice got back into the fight by going on a 7-0 run of their own. UTEP failed to score in the last three and a half minutes of the first half allowing the Owls to tie the game 34-34 going into halftime.
- The Owls kept the pressure on early in the second half and would have a 20-4 run over the course of seven minutes that carried over the halftime. Rice took their largest lead in the game up to that point, leading by nine points (48-39).
- UTEP turned on the defensive with a little more than 10 minutes to go when they were down by double digits. They diligently executed a series of defensive stops over the course of the next seven minutes to eventually tie the game at 63-63 when Jamal Bieniemy hit a runner.
- The game would become a two to three point affair in the home stretch. Boum would give the Miners a 67-65 lead w/ two minutes to go in the contest. Coming down the stretch the execution of free throws became key, this is where Keonte Kennedy came up big when the Miners needed to score to help them get the win.
What was said
As for the Miners executing down the stretch which was key for Thursday night’s win, UTEP head coach Joe Golding said, “I thought our execution was way better as far as the sets, the plays and the shots we got. We’ve worked all week on it, and I thought it was much better. I did not like our (inbounding). We worked on all those plays not on inbounding so tomorrow we will.”
Despite the win, the Miners are perfectly aware of what they stopped doing to let Rice in the game. Jamal Bieniemy said, “ The last ten minutes of the first minutes of the first half we stopped playing hard, we stopped playing together.”
“We had to stand together and play hard in the second half.” Bieniemy concluded.
UTEP will now have its final game of the regular season and it will be a home game. The Miners will host the North Texas Mean Green for a Saturday matinee feature at the Don Haskins Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. MST.
Author: Joe Rodriguez | Photog: Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post
Rodriguez is a life long El Pasoan. Joe has covered sports locally across the Borderland since 2007 for various media outlet both in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez as a personal passion as he is a professional in the world of healthcare (Physiatry). His favorite sports include soccer, auto racing, golf and horse racing.