HONOLULU, Hawai’i – Bryson Williams scored a game-high 16 points, while Efe Odigie (12 points) and Kaden Archie (career-high 11 points) came off the bench to lead UTEP (9-3) past Ball State (6-6), 71-70, during a tight battle in the consolation round at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on Monday night.
“I’m very proud of my guys tonight the way they came back and bounced back from a tough loss last night. I said to my guys this morning that we’re going to need everybody tonight and everybody was going to have to be ready to contribute for us,” second-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We got that tonight in a big way from everybody.”
UTEP found itself down seven points early in the second half, but rallied behind big baskets. But probably none bigger than Odigie’s first career three-point bucket. The 6-9, 255-pound forward pulled up from the top of the key at the 10:33 mark and gave the Miners a go-ahead two-point lead with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game.
UTEP went on a 16-2 run during a stretch late in the game.
After Williams scored almost half of UTEP’s points the night before against Hawai’i, the scoring was more balanced versus Ball State. Nine Miners made buckets as Jordan Lathon, Daryl Edwards and Anthony Tarke each tallied six points. Tydus Verhoeven scored three points on an and-1 play, while Nigel Hawkins recorded two points. The bench contributed 31 points on Monday night after only eight points the night before.
The telling stat for UTEP were the rebounds. The Miners outrebounded the Cardinals, 37-21, after being outdone on the glass the previous three games. The Orange and Blue came up big on the offensive side as it registered a season high in offensive rebounds (12) and second-chance points (18).
Tarke and Williams each led the squad with six rebounds apiece, while Tarke snagged a season-high three steals. Tarke also recorded his first assists (two) of his UTEP career.
The other two big contributors were Archie and Odigie. Archie, who played a career-high 30 minutes, went 5-for-9 from the field and tallied five rebounds, including three offensive boards. He added a blocked shot and steal, and tied Nigel Hawkins for the team lead with three assists. Odigie went 4-for-5 from the field, and hit 3-of-4 from the charity stripe, while also grabbing four rebounds (two offensive).
The Miners built a nine-point lead (17-8) at the midway point of the first half after back-to-back Williams’s buckets – the first a three pointer, and the second a basket in the paint.
But Ball State outscored UTEP, 23-14, down the stretch to tie the contest at 31-31 at the half. The Cardinals’ K.J. Walton started their run with a made three-point basket, while Tahjai Teague hit a pair of free throws to make the count 17-12. After Tarke connected on an outside jumper off an assist from Hawkins, Jarron Coleman answered with an and-1 to get Ball State within four points (19-15).
In the second half, after going back-and-forth in the first six minutes of the period, Ball State piled up a seven-point lead. Williams gave the Miners a 38-36 advantage at the 16:37 mark with a basket in the paint. Teague hit a three pointer that gave Ball State a 39-38 lead. His basket started a 9-0 run that made the count 45-38 with 14:22 to go in the ball game.
The Miners offense woke up as Odigie snagged an offensive rebound that led to a basket (45-40). Archie followed with a layup to make it a three-point game, while Odigie hit a pair of free throws to make it a one-point game (45-44). Ishmael El-Amin scored on a field goal in the paint that gave his squad a three-point lead (47-44). But a pair of Odigie buckets, including his big three pointer, helped the Miners build a seven-point advantage (54-47) at the 8:54 mark behind a 16-2 run. UTEP even got the score up to a nine-point cushion (64-55) at the 3:47 mark after Tarke tallied his third offensive board and slammed it down with authority.
But again, Ball State was relentless in its pursuit to avoid going winless in the tournament. With the Miners leading 66-61 after Archie recorded a put-back off his third offensive board, Luke Bumbalough came up with a big trey to get within two points (66-64).
Ball State put the pressure on with a full-court press with under a minute to play, but the Miners made their way across mid-court, while making 5-of-6 from the charity stripe down the stretch. Williams sealed the deal with a pair of made free throws with two seconds, remaining to put the Miners up four points.
UTEP won its first game outside the Don Haskins Center since winning at North Texas on March 3, 2018.
UTEP will end its holiday tournament on The Island against Boise State (7-5) on Christmas Day. The Miners and Broncos will tipoff at 10:30 a.m. Hawaii Time/1:30 p.m. MT on ESPNU.
Boise State is coming off an 85-69 victory against Portland during the early contest on Monday evening. Derrick Alston scored 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including an 8-for-9 effort from the free-throw line. He’s the second player after Williams to tally a 30-point performance in this year’s Classic. Alston added six assists while Justinian Jessup chipped in with 17 points. Marcus Dickinson recorded nine rebounds, while RJ Williams added seven off the glass.
The Broncos are led by Alston’s 21.7 points per game, and Jessup’s 15.2 average. Williams is averaging 8.3 rebounds per game and 12.3 points per contest.