HOUSTON – Souley Boum scored a career-high 27 points and Daryl Edwards scored a colligate career-high 22 points as the UTEP Miners ended a 19-game road losing streak and defeated Rice, 72-64, in Tudor Fieldhouse on Thursday night.
“[The road win] was really big for us,” second-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We had been really close [on the road]. We had opportunities to close some games out on the road early in conference play and haven’t been able to do that. But we worked really hard the last couple days, trying to get back to our identity in terms of guarding hard, taking transition baskets away and executing on offense.”
The Miners (12-8, 3-4 Conference USA) shot 45.3 percent from the field, their highest percentage in seven games, while the Owls (9-12, 1-7 C-USA) shot 36.4 percent, the lowest the UTEP defense had allowed in four games. UTEP also yielded only two fast break points after allowing 21 at UTSA on Jan. 18.
UTEP took the go-ahead lead at the 6:09 mark on a Boum three-point bucket, following 15 lead changes.
Boum shot 6-of-12 from the field, and went 11-for-12 from the charity stripe. Boum connected on four of UTEP’s five three-point buckets.
“[Boum] had been working hard on his shooting and he got some great looks tonight,” Terry said. “We needed him to make shots and he’s the guy we need to come in and be aggressive with the basketball. He did that for us tonight.”
Edwards shot 9-of-19 from the field, including a made three-point basket. Edwards scored eight points in the first period as his first six came in the paint. Edwards started the second half with an and-1 after drawing a foul in the paint, while his next bucket was inside. Overall, 14 of Edwards’s 22 points came in the paint.
“We knew we could drive to the basket after working the ball around,” Terry said. “Our guys did a great job driving the ball and attacking in the paint tonight.”
Eric Vila, despite not scoring, came up big on the boards, grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds. Nigel Hawkins added eight points and four rebounds, while Kaden Archie, Tydus Verhoeven and Deon Stroud each scored four points. Bryson Williams chipped in with three points and six boards, playing limited minutes in foul trouble.
Rice took a 52-50 lead after Robert Martin connected on a layup at the 9:32 mark. Edwards answered with a three, giving the Miners a one-point edge (53-52). Ako Adams made one of his five three-pointers to give his squad a 55-53 lead at the 7:23 mark.
UTEP then went on an 11-4 run that started with a Boum trey coming out of a timeout to give the Miners the go-ahead lead, 56-55, with 6:09 left in the contest. The Miners built that into a seven-point advantage (64-57) with 1:49 remaining.
Vila and Edwards each recorded offensive rebounds during the run. Vila snagged an Edwards’s missed three-pointer and dished it back to Edwards who converted a layup to give UTEP a 60-57 lead. At the 1:49 mark, Edwards missed the second of two free throws, grabbed his own miss under the basket and connected on a layup that gave UTEP the seven-point lead.
Rice got within four points (64-60) with 50 seconds remaining in the game on a Josh Parrish layup. But the Miners went 8-for-10 from the line down the stretch to maintain the lead.
The UTEP defense stepped up in the last four minutes of the ball game as Rice went scoreless for over 2:30 before Trey Murphy III made a free throw at the 1:32 mark. During that span, Williams blocked a Chris Mullins’s jumper outside the paint, and the Miners forced a shot-clock violation.
UTEP took a 36-34 lead into the locker room, as it was the most points scored during the first half since Dec. 22 at Hawai’i (37 points).
UTEP scored 26 points in the paint versus Rice’s 20, while the Miners’ bench outscored the Owls 35-31. UTEP converted 12-fastbreak points, its most during a victory this season since scoring 12 on Nov. 5. The Miners also shot 76.0 percent (19-25) from the line.
The Miners only shot 17.9 percent (5-28) from the three-point line, while they hit 76.0 percent (19-25) of their two-point buckets.
Robert Martin came off the bench and led the Owls with 20 points, Adams tallied 17 points and Parrish chipped in with 10 points.
Up next, UTEP will have a tough road test at North Texas (13-8. 7-1 C-USA) on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. MT/5 CT at the Super Pit in Denton.
The Mean Green have won seven consecutive games, including a 98-78 win against UTSA on Thursday night. UNT’s lone league loss came at WKU, 93-84 on January 2.