File photo by Ruben R. Ramirez | El Paso Herald Post
UTEP went toe-to-toe with Conference USA’s no. 1 team, but UAB used a 9-0 run to pull away in the second half and chalked up a 75-60 victory on Saturday afternoon in Bartow Arena.
The Blazers (16-2, 9-1 C-USA) have won six straight and improved to 13-1 in Bartow after shooting over 61 percent from the field in the second half. The Miners (8-10, 4-8 C-USA) led at the half, but were outscored 43-26 after only shooting 30.0 percent in the second half.
“The guys came in and played well for us in the first half,” third-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We played well, really, in both games in the first half. We’ve been a really good second-half team, but It was the first four minutes of the second half that we weren’t able to set the tone the way we needed to with the energy and activity defensively.”
UTEP shot 45.0 percent (9-20) from downtown, led by Kristian Sjolund’s career-best 5-for-5 effort. Sjolund finished with a career-high 15 points during a career-most 27 minutes off the bench. Sjolund’s five three-point buckets were also a season high by a Miner.
Boum led the Miners with 17 points and grabbed five rebounds. Bryson Williams tallied 13 points and seven rebounds, while Keonte Kennedy registered 11 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Boum and Jamal Bieniemy each tallied four assists to lead the Miners.
The game got away from the Miners after Boum hit a pair of free throws to take a 45-44 advantage at the 13:50 mark. Quan Jackson answered with a three-pointer that started a 9-0 run.
Blazers distanced themselves from the Miners and never looked back. From that point on, UAB made 13 of its final 16 field goal attempts.
After being down a point early in the first half, Kennedy hit a three to go up 5-3 and UTEP didn’t trail the remainder of the first half. Kennedy also beat the buzzer on a jumper off an assist from Bieniemy to take a 34-32 halftime lead.
Sjolund went 3-for-3 from downtown, while the Miners overall were 7-of-12 from beyond the arc in the first period.
UAB shot 53.8 percent overall from the field, including an 8-of-13 effort on threes. Michael Ertel and Jalen Benjamin each led UAB with 19 points apiece, while Kassim Nicholson added 13 points.
Up next, UTEP will host FIU on Friday, Feb. 12. The Miners and Panthers (9-12, 2-10 C-USA) will tip off at 7 p.m. in the Haskins Center. The contest will be streamed on ESPN+ and can be heard on the home of UTEP Basketball 600 ESPN El Paso and the UTEP Miners app with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher calling the action. UTEP and FIU will tip off at 7 p.m. on Saturday.