Freshmen Nigel Hawkins (16 points) and Jordan Lathon (16) each led UTEP in scoring, while reaching career highs in points as the Miners (3-4) ran past Northwestern State (2-6), 77-47, on Saturday night in the Don Haskins Center.
UTEP opened the contest with an 8-0 lead after a Lathon steal and dunk, and the Miners never looked back. The Demons got within a point (12-11) at the 10:21 mark after a C.J. Jones made jumper. But the Orange and Blue pulled away and closed out the first half on a 25-9 run to go up 37-20 at the half.
“I thought our guys came out and again the thing is we really try to challenge our guys with is continue to try and improve and build our offense and build our defense,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “At this time of year so much is about each player trying to improve every single practice and every single game which makes it a process.”
In fact, Terry’s four freshmen combined for 50 points as Efe Odigie scored 14 points – his seventh consecutive double-digit game to begin his UTEP career, and fellow big man Kaosi Ezeagu chipped in with four points. Odigie also pulled down five boards, blocked a shot and went 4-for-5 from the charity stripe.
Besides the points for Lathon, the 6-4 guard had an all-around game as he led the Miners with nine rebounds. Lathon picked up three assists, a steal and a blocked shot.
“I really like what Jordan did tonight,” Terry said. “He worked really well with Hawkins and being young-guards they have to be able to make decisions with the ball and they did that tonight. I thought Jordan came back and really maned-up the point-guard spot for us especially with the starting rotation. He did it with some really good conviction.”
Hawkins went 4-of-8 from downtown, his first collegiate three point buckets.
“Hawkins built his confidence tonight with his scoring and he’s a young player so sometimes you live and die by your scoring which can affect your entire game” Terry said. “I thought he held his composure well when things aren’t going his way. It was good to see the ball go through the basket for him tonight and he’s one of those guys who is capable to be a scoring option throughout his career here.”
Hawkins scored all 16 of his points during the second half. Hawkins hit his first collegiate three-pointer with 3:50 remaining in the contest, then followed with another trey in back-to-back possessions. Hawkins then nailed another with just over two minutes to go and then connected on his fourth with 1:29 left in the game.
Ountae Campbell, who played 15 minutes in his UTEP debut on Nov. 28, played 16 more minutes on Saturday night, scoring a pair of points, drawing a couple charges, recorded four rebounds and dished out four assists.
Evan Gilyard led the squad with three steals, scored 10 of his 12 points during the first half and grabbed six rebounds, while Paul Thomas tallied nine points, three rebounds and a blocked shot. Kobe Magee played 26 minutes, scored three points, dished out three dimes and registered three rebounds.
UTEP combined for four blocks, six steals and turned the ball over 15 times after averaging 20 turnovers the last four games. UTEP outrebounded NSU, 40-30, while making nine three-pointers on the night to NSU’s three.
NSU only recorded four assists, while its leading scorer was DeAndre Love with eight points.