UTEP’s Bryson Williams | Photo by Brent Beerends KU Athletics
LAWRENCE, Ks. – Bryson Williams (23 points, 13 rebounds) recorded a double-double and Souley Boum tallied 16 points with six rebounds and three steals, but no. 13/14 Kansas took its first lead with 2:39 left in the contest and overcame a 15-point deficit to rally past UTEP in a 67-62 comeback victory on Thursday night in front of 2,600 fans at “Phog” Allen Fieldhouse.
UTEP (12-11) took a 48-33 lead, its biggest of the contest at the 18:20 mark on a Williams’s 3-layup. However, KU (19-8) shot 57.7 percent in the second half and outscored the Miners 47-28. David McCormack caught fire and scored 16 of his 18 points in the second period.
UTEP led for 34:38 of the ball game, while KU for only 1:30.
“I thought we came out with really good energy and really good activity in the first half,” said third-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry. “We were really guarding and did a great job of blocking out. We did a good job taking care of the basketball, we only had four turnovers in the first half. We know [Kansas] was going to come out in the second half and try to rev it up defensively. We we’re going to have to be strong with the ball, make physical plays in the post and I thought we did that for the better part of the second half. But we give [Kansas] credit, they battled through it.”
Williams led all scorers, shooting 9-for-19 from the field, with a pair of 3-point buckets. He added two assists and a steal. Boum struggled from the field (5-16), but went 5-for-6 from the foul line. Tydus Verhoeven blocked five shots, his most in a UTEP uniform and tallied six boards. Jamal Bieniemy scored eight points and dished out a game-high five dimes.
Keonte Kennedy tallied six points with eight rebounds.
The Miners looked sharp and dominated the first half. However, KU forced 10 turnovers and outscored UTEP 16-6 on points from turnovers in the second half. UTEP was also held to zero field goals for the last 4:02 of the game.
After taking the 15-point lead, UTEP maintained to keep the advantage in double figures, while taking a 50-36 lead on an Efe Odigie layup at the 12:25 mark. The Jayhawks answered with an 8-0 run as Christian Braun scored four of those points. UTEP took a pair of nine-point leads as Bieniemy hit a 3-point jumper at the 8:35 mark (53-44), and a Williams made a jumper at the 8:03 mark (55-46).
With UTEP up 61-60, McCormack gave his Jayhawks their first lead of the game on a pair of made free throws with 2:39 left in the ball game.
Boum tied the game at 62 after sinking a pair of free throws of his own, but KU would score the last five points of the contest to chalk up the win.
UTEP never trailed in the first half. Williams gave the Miners a quick 11-2 lead on back-to-back layups at the 13:46 mark. After Christian Agnew gave the Miners a 13-4 advantage and Keonte Kennedy drilled a 3-pointer that put UTEP up 18-7 at the 9:20 mark, KU went on a 5-0 spurt to get back within six points (18-12).
After the two squads traded buckets to keep it a seven-point ball game, a Williams’s jumper and Kristian Sjolund three gave the Miners a 28-16 lead with 3:21 left in the half. Boum made a pair of free throws to give UTEP its biggest lead of the half at 14 (32-18).
Verhoeven converted a reverse layup off an assist from Odigie with four seconds left in the half to sustain the 14-point advantage (34-20) going into the locker room.
UTEP shot 37.3 percent in the game, but out hustled Kansas on the boards, 40-34. The Miners grabbed 13 offensive boards and outscored KU 13-6 on second chance points.
McCormack registered a double-double with 10 rebounds. Ochai Agbaji led KU with 19 points, while Marcus Garrett tallied 11 points with five assists.
Up next, UTEP will travel to Frisco, Texas, to compete at the Conference USA Championships. The Miners will play on March 10 and will be the no. 5 seed in the West Division.
UTEP will take on the no. 4-seed team in the East on Wednesday. Florida Atlantic currently stands in fourth place.