DENTON, Texas – Souley Boum led UTEP with 21 points and Bryson Williams scored 18, but North Texas went 21-of-23 from the free-throw line and only turned the ball over six times on its way to a 67-57 win on Saturday in The Super Pit.
“We didn’t guard as well as we did at Rice,” second-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “Regardless of the calls and guys sitting in the first half due to foul trouble, the guys coming into the game have to get down and guard. We had to stay in the same coverage that we’re trying to work. We just didn’t guard the way we needed to guard tonight.”
The Miners (12-9, 3-5 Conference USA) shot well from the foul line, going 14-for-16, but went 5-for-19 from the three-point line. The Mean Green (14-8, 8-1 C-USA) have won eight consecutive games after forcing 13 UTEP turnovers and scoring 11 points off those turnovers.
UTEP, after being down by as many as 16 points (52-36), made a run and got within seven points (54-47). Williams and Boum combined for 11 points during that 11-2 run.
After the Mean Green built another double-digit lead (58-47), the Miners got within five points (58-53) after Williams made a layup with 3:35 left in the game. But James Reese made a three-point shot, putting his team up, 61-53.
UTEP got within six points (61-55) after Boum made a pair of free throws, but couldn’t get any closer as North Texas went 8-for-8 from the line down the stretch.
Williams, after only scoring three points at Rice, made seven field goals, while going 3-for-4 from the line. Boum went 6-for-12 and 7-of-8 from the line. Williams led the way with six boards and two blocks, while Jordan Lathon led with four assists and grabbed five rebounds.
Umoja Gibson was only held to six points after scoring 27 on Thursday, but Zachary Simmons tallied a team-best 16 points and Javion Hamlet recorded 14 points for the Mean Green.
In the first half, North Texas used an 8-0 run to take a 27-16 lead at the 5:57 mark. But Boum stopped the run by drawing a foul on a driving layup and making the free throw for the and-1 play. After UNT turnover, Boum took advantage and hit a jumper under the basket. Boum had scored five consecutive points to get the Miners within six points (27-21).
However, North Texas, who made 12-of-12 free throws and shot 50.0 percent from the field during the first period, finished out the half on an 11-6 run to take a 38-27 lead into the locker room.
Next up for UTEP, Middle Tennessee (Jan. 30) and UAB (Feb. 1) at home.
Both contests will tipoff at 7 p.m. and can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen calling the action. Duke Keith and Leonard Owens will be on the mic for both contests streamed on ESPN+.