Photo courtesy Conference USA
FRISCO, Texas – Souley Boum scored a game-high 23 points, while Bryson Williams and Keonte Kennedy each tallied 14 points, but it wasn’t enough as Florida Atlantic (13-9) got by UTEP (12-12), 76-70, on Wednesday night in the first round at the Conference USA Men’s Basketball Championship in the Ford Center at The Star.
“We had some good momentum with about two minutes to go, but I thought it was a critical play when [the referee] called [Williams] out of bounds when he wasn’t out of bounds,” said third-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry. “[FAU] got to the line a lot and really was the only way they were scoring for a better part of the second half.”
The Owls extended their winning streak to five games after shooting 47.1 percent from the floor and 50.0 percent (8-16) from 3-point range. The Miners season ended after only shooting 39.3 percent and 16.7 percent threes.
UTEP hit six consecutive field goals at one point in the game that ended with a Christian Agnew driving layup that gave the Miners a 58-56 lead with 6:36 to play. However, UTEP made only one field goal in its last nine attempts. The lone basket was a Williams’s put-back dunk off a missed 3-pointer by Jamal Bieniemy as time expired.
UTEP was down by as many as 11 points at around the midway point of the first half, but rallied to find itself down 34-33 at the half. Going into the second half, the two teams traded field goals and free throws with 11:44 left in a tight ball game.
With FAU leading by a point (63-62) Bieniemy hit a pair from the stripe that gave the Miners a one-point edge with 4:13 left to play.
It was at the 3:24 mark where the game took a turn in favor of the Owls. Karlis Silins tied the game at 64 after making one of two free throws with 3:44 left in the game. Williams followed with what the Miners thought was a reverse layup and foul. However, he was called out of bounds.
The ESPN+ replay showed Williams inbounds and more than a few inches away from the out-of-bounds line.
FAU outscored UTEP 12-6 down the stretch following the tied score at 64. FAU shot 19-of-24 from the line in the second half, including an 8-for-10 effort during the final 1:17 of the game.
Boum played all 40 minutes, shooting 8-for-21 from the field. He added four rebounds and two steals. Kennedy shot 5-for-11 with two assists and tied for the team lead with seven rebounds. Williams also grabbed seven boards and finished 5-for-10 from the floor in his final game as a Miner. Bieniemy led with four assists and tallied nine points.
UTEP was outrebounded 41-34, while only dishing out six assists to FAU’s 14 assists. The Miners only turned the ball over eight times, and forced 17 turnovers. UTEP outscored FAU 22-9 on points off turnovers.
Silins led the Owls with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor and a 7-for-9 effort from the foul line before fouling out. Bryan Greenlee tallied 13 points and four assists, while Michael Forrest added 11 points and six boards. Jailyn Ingram (eight points) and Kenan Blackshear (seven points) each recorded eight rebounds.
UTEP was eliminated from the conference tournament for a second year in a row. The Miners’ last victory in the C-USA Tournament came on March 9, 2017 (def. Rice 86-76).