Photo by Ruben R. Ramirez | El Paso Herald Post
UTEP men’s basketball will face one of the league’s top defensive squads when it hits the road to play North Texas on Friday, January 15.
UTEP (6-4, 2-2 Conference USA) is coming off a split against Rice. The Miners defeated the Owls in a shootout, 101-89, on Jan. 8, but were edged out the next night, 71-68. UTEP has been one of the top teams in the nation at taking care of the ball, as the Miners rank first C-USA and 12th nationally in turnovers per game (10.1).
UTEP has only turned the ball over 18 times (6.0 per game) during the last three contests.
North Texas (5-5, 1-1 C-USA) is coming off a series split at UTSA. The Mean Green won 77-70 on Jan. 8, followed by a 77-69 defeat the next night.
UNT is the top shooting team in the conference, ranking first in field goal percentage (48.7) and three-point field goal percentage (38.6). North Texas won the 2020 C-USA regular-season title, boasting a 14-4 league record.
The Miners are led by Souley Boum’s 17.6 points per game, which also ranks fifth in conference. Boum has been shooting the ball well, ranking second in C-USA in three-point field goal percentage (44.8), fifth in three-point field goals per game (2.6) and fourth in free throw percentage (82.5).
Bryson Williams scored a season-high 29 points against Rice on Jan. 8, while averaging 15.7 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per contest. Jamal Bieniemy is averaging 19.0 points and 5.8 assists per game in four C-USA contests. Bieniemy leads C-USA in assist/turnover ratio (4.0) and fourth in assists per game (5.3). Bieniemy tallied 24 points with six dimes during UTEP’s Friday night victory.
Reigning C-USA Player of the Year Javion Hamlet leads UNT in scoring (13.2 ppg) and assists per game (5.4). James Reese (10.3 ppg) and Zachary Simmons (10.1) also average double figures. Simmons leads the team in rebounding (6.5 rpg), while Thomas Bell averages 6.1 boards per game. The Mean Green give up 65.5 points per game, ranking fifth in the league in scoring defense.
UNT ranks third in C-USA in free-throw percentage (74.5). North Texas was supposed to open league play against UAB on Jan. 1 and 2, but the contests were postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests and subsequent contact tracing within UAB’s program. In place of Saturday’s game against the Blazers, UNT scheduled a game at Loyola Chicago.
The Mean Green fell to Loyola, 57-49 on Jan. 2. UNT opened the season with a 116-62 win against Mississippi Valley State on Nov. 26. In its next three contests to open the season, North Texas lost at Arkansas (69-54), at Mississippi State (69-63) and at no. 11 West Virginia (62-50).
The Mean Green responded with a three-game winning streak.
UTEP leads the all-time series 10-5. The Mean Green has won the last two meetings, defeating the Miners the Miners, 67-57, on Jan. 25, 2020 in Denton, and 58-51, on Jan. 10, 2019 in the Haskins Center. UTEP’s last win in Denton came on March 3, 2018 by the score of 68-66.
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. MT at the Super Pit in Denton.
The Miners and Mean Green will be televised on Stadium on Friday and Saturday with Chris Hassel (play-by-play) and Dani Klupenger (analysis) calling the action. Both contests can also 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 behind the mic in his 40th season.