Souley Boum scored a game-high 21 points, while adding eight rebounds and three assists, but WKU (17-8, 10-3 Conference USA) hit big shots down the stretch, sending UTEP (13-13, 4-9 C-USA) to its fourth consecutive loss, 67-62, on Thursday night in the Haskins Center.
“We felt like our defense had a chance to win this game for us tonight and we had to play with urgency from start to finish,” second-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “I thought we did a fairly decent job with urgency, but early on part of our defensive problems were transition defense. [WKU] really pushed the ball in transition. I thought we had good effort, but we have to finish out games and finish out possessions, especially on the defensive part on the floor. We got to keep working and buy into the defensive part of 40 minutes.”
Boum completed a three-point play after making a free throw and getting the Miners within a point (57-56) at the 3:34 mark. But Jordan Rawls made his only three-point shot of the game that put WKU up four points (60-56) with 2:41 left in the game.
Bryson Williams got the Miners within three points (61-58) after connecting on a layup off of one of Jordan Lathon’s five assists, but Taveion Hollingsworth, who led WKU with 18 points, answered with a three-point play that put his squad up 64-58 with just over a minute remaining in the contest.
Williams connected his second basket, a layup off another Lathon dime to make the count, 64-60, but Hollingsworth scored WKU’s last seven points and came up with another big basket with 31 seconds remaining to go up six points.
Williams tallied a season-high four assists, tying his collegiate career high. He added 13 points with eight rebounds and two steals. Daryl Edwards chipped in with 10 points as it was the first time in 11 games that a trio of Miners hit double figures. Lathon led the Miners in assists, steals (three) and blocked shots (two).
Anthony Tarke made his first start since Jan. 2, contributing with five rebounds, two points and a pair of assists in 14 minutes of action. Tydus Verhoeven matching his season high with four points, while recording two rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal. Deon Stroud played 13 minutes, scoring six points.
WKU had four players in double digits led by Hollingsworth. Jared Savage (14 points), Carson Williams (13) and Camron Justice (11) were the other three Hilltoppers to top double figures. Savage led with nine boards
Overall, WKU outrebounded UTEP, 37-34, but the Miners won in the paint (36-24) for the first time in three games. UTEP shot 41.0 percent (25-61), but a measly 14.8 (4-27) from the three-point line. WKU shot 42.3 percent (22-52) from the field, including 9-for-21 from beyond the arc.
In the first half, WKU built a 13-point lead (26-13) with 5:21 left in the first period. After being down 30-17, the Miners used a 12-0 run to get back in the ball game and get within a point (30-29).
WKU ended the half with a pair of made free throws by Hollingsworth to take a 32-29 lead into the locker room.
UTEP continued its fighting effort in the second half, taking a 35-32 lead after Boum hit a pair from the foul line. But WKU went on a 9-0 run and took a 41-35 lead at the 14:26 mark.
The Miners kept battling, getting within a point (50-49) after an Edwards layup at the 6:17 mark, while Williams hit a jumper to make the count 52-51 with 5:16 remaining. But Savage answered Williams’s bucket with a three-pointer.
Up next, UTEP will host Marshall on Saturday, February 15. The Miners and Thundering Herd will tipoff at 2 p.m., while the game can be heard on UTEP’s flagship station 600 ESPN El Paso with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen calling the action. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ with Duke Keith and Leonard Owens on the mic.
Gallery by Andres “Ace” Acosta – Chief Photographer | Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post | Video by UTEP