Bryson Williams | Photo by Ace Acosta
The UTEP men’s basketball program started its 100th season by hitting the century mark in a 100-81 victory over UT-Permian Basin. Six Miners hit double figures led by Souley Boum’s 23 points on Wednesday night in the Haskins Center.
The Miners’ 100 points were the most during the Terry era, and most since hitting the same number in the season opener on Nov. 10, 2017.
However, unlike any other campaign, the Miners did it in front of no fans as sports have taken on a different landscape. And for coach Terry, he’s just thankful that his squad, and the rest of college basketball got to start a season.
“The surreal part for us is that we’re actually getting a chance to play,” third-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We were unsure, uncertain that we were going to play a season, and now we’re actually getting a chance to play. It’s a season where we don’t start off with an exhibition game, and we didn’t have a controlled scrimmage. So, it’s your first game and you’re trying to figure your team out.”
UTEP dished out 20 assists, led by Jamal Bieniemy’s nine dimes. The junior transfer from Oklahoma added 12 points, a team-high three steals and had zero turnovers in his first game in a UTEP uniform.
“[Jamal Bieniemy] was a steady glue guy [at Oklahoma]. He was a guy who could steady the ship and was a really low turnover guy,” Terry said. “The thing we challenge with him here, is that we didn’t want him to be that same guy because we think he can do more. We think that he can score and we think he can be more of a focal type player for us.”
Keonte Kennedy (16 points), Kristian Sjolund (12) and Adam Hess (11) also hit double figures in their UTEP debuts. Kennedy grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds to post his first collegiate double-double, while Sjolund shot an efficient 4-for-5 from the field, including a 2-for-3 effort from downtown off the bench. Hess was perfect from the floor, hitting 4-of-4 overall and all three treys coming off the bench. Bryson Williams added 14 points and seven boards.
The Miners ran away from the Falcons in the first half, scoring 61 points. It was the second most points ever scored during the first half in program history. Miners shot over 62 percent from the field, including a 7-for-14 effort from downtown.
UTPB got within seven points (28-21) at the 9:50 mark after a three-pointer by Wesley Hayes. However, the Miners built an 18-point halftime lead (61-43) after Bieniemy knocked down a three at the buzzer.
The Miners only turned the ball over 10 times, while the bench came up with 33 points. Vuk Vulikic dished out four assists and scored two points off the bench in his Miner debut, while Efe Odigie tallied six points and three rebounds. Freshman Ze’Rik Onyema scored two points on a monster dunk at the end of the contest. Tydus Verhoeven led the team with three blocked shots, while adding four rebounds and two points.
Up next, UTEP will hit the road to play at Pac-12 power Arizona on Sunday, Nov. 29. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. MT in the McKale Center.
The Miners and Wildcats can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso with “The Voice of the Miners” calling the action. The contest will also be televised on the Pac-12 Network.