HATTIESBURG, Ms. – Jamal Bieniemy scored 18 points and dished out seven assists, but Southern Miss (5-3, 1-0 Conference USA) used a 7-0 run at the end of regulation to force overtime and defeat UTEP (4-3, 0-1 C-USA), 74-66, in the Conference USA opener on Friday night at Reed Green Coliseum.
Bieniemy hit one of his nine jumpers at the 1:08 mark that gave the Miners a 60-53 lead. However, Tyler Stevenson started the run with an and-1 with 45 seconds remaining. Stevenson was a scoring machine down the stretch, tallying five of the Golden Eagles’ final seven points in regulation.
Stevenson added six points in the overtime, while leading all scorers with 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting, and added 10 rebounds for this first double-double of the season.
“[Southern Miss] changed the momentum of the game and outhustled us on some 50-50 balls in the first half and we needed to come back and master our energy and activity in those regards. I thought we did that for the better part in the second half and got the game in our terms in what we wanted to do,” third-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We were right in position to win the ball game. We’re so close right there in terms of understanding what it takes to win and close out games.”
Southern Miss, which entered the game shooting 56.4 percent from the foul line, went 20-of-25 (80 percent). The Golden Eagles went hot in overtime, shooting a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe, outscoring UTEP, 14-6, in the extra period.
The Miners turned the ball over four times in overtime. Overall, UTEP turned the ball over 11 times. Jaron Pierre Jr. scored the game-tying basket with 15 seconds remaining after one of the UTEP turnovers.
The Miners had a chance to win it in the final seconds, but didn’t get a shot off before the buzzer sounded to end regulation.
Southern Miss has defeated UTEP in nine consecutive meetings in Hattiesburg and 12 of the last 15.
Souley Boum played the entire 45 minutes and led UTEP with 19 points, shooting 7-of-8 from the foul line. However, he shot 5-of-17 from the floor and 2-for-8 threes. Bryson Williams struggled, shooting 2-of-9 and scoring seven points.
Williams recorded nine boards, while Keonte Kennedy, who shot 2-of-10, also added nine rebounds. Kristian Sjolund came off the bench and registered 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Efe Odigie added four points on 2-3 field goals off the bench, while Christian Agnew scored three points, shooting 1-for-7.
Boum, Williams, Kennedy and Agnew combined to shoot 10-of-43 from the floor.
UTEP shot a season-low 36.2 percent to Southern Miss’ 44.1 percent, while the Golden Eagles edged out the Miners on the boards, 42-41. UTEP also struggled from the foul line, shooting 11-of-19 (57.9).
“We should’ve closed the game out at the free throw line, taking care of the basketball and we didn’t,” Terry added. “It was a tough game for us and we have to finish those games out, especially on the road.
Up next, UTEP will have another chance to win in Hattiesburg for the first time since 2010 when it takes Southern Miss as part of C-USA back-to-back scheduling on Saturday with tipoff set for 3 p.m. MT at Reed Green Coliseum.
The Miners and Golden Eagles will be streamed on ESPN+, and can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher behind the mic.