Bryson Williams (28 points, 10 rebounds) and Efe Odigie (15 points, 10 rebounds) each recorded a double-double while leading UTEP to a narrow, 67-66, triumph over Middle Tennessee on Thursday night in the Haskins Center.
The Miners (13-9, 4-5 Conference USA) only gave up the ball eight times, while forcing 15 turnovers by the Blue Raiders (5-17, 1-8 C-USA). UTEP outscored MT, 12-5 on points off turnovers. The Miners also recorded nine offensive boards, tallying 10 second-chance points.
UTEP overcame four Blue Raiders in double-figures and improved to 11-1 at The Don. It’s also the most wins in the Sun City since the 2015-16 campaign (14). UTEP surpassed their C-USA win total from a season ago, while its 13 overall victories are the most since the 2016-17 campaign.
“We knew it was going to be a ball game,” second-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We had to come in and really try to defend really hard tonight, and have physical block outs. We knew [Middle Tennessee] was averaging 12 offensive rebounds a game and we did a really good job holding those guys to six offensive rebounds. They could really shoot the basketball and they’re a much better team than what their record shows. Their personnel is really good.”
Reggie Scurry, after tallying 16 offensive rebounds in three games against the Miners last year, was held to zero on Thursday night and only two defensive rebounds.
“We did a really good job on Scurry, who really hurt us last year in every ball game. We did a really good job on him,” Terry said.
MT’s Jo’Vontae Green (19 points), Antonio Green (12 points), Jayce Johnson (10 points) and Tyson Jackson (10) each went for double-figure points.
Williams registered his fifth double-double of the season and shot 5-for-5 from the foul line, while Odigie notched his first double-double of the season and 12th during his career. The last time two Miners recorded a double-double each was on Nov. 19, 2018. Odigie went 6-of-12 from the field, including a made three-point shot. He’s now 3-for-3 from downtown on the season.
“[Odigie] was scary in practice the last couple of days,” Terry said. “He gave us a great look from the scout team and he carried that over into the game. He had the energy tonight and practiced like that the last couple days.”
Deon Stroud made his first start in his collegiate career, chipping in with seven points on 3-of-4 shooting, including a three-point play early in the second half. Stroud scored UTEP’s first points on a two-handed dunk.
Daryl Edwards hit a pair of treys in the second half, scoring six points, while Souley Boum recorded three assists and scored all five of his points during the second period. Nigel Hawkins tallied four points, five rebounds and a team-leading four assists, and Kaden Archie added two points.
The Miners couldn’t pull away from the Blue Raiders as they took a trio of five-point leads during the second half. The game had eight ties and 11 lead changes.
“I’m happy with the win, even though I thought we could’ve closed it out better,” Terry said. “But nevertheless, a win’s a win. We’ll take them any way we can get them right now.”
With UTEP down 42-41, Edwards hit a three that started a 7-1 run. Williams capped the run with a pair of made free throws, giving the Miners a 48-43 lead. However, MT answered with a 6-0 to take a 49-48 edge after a Millner three.
UTEP answered that run with its own 6-0 spurt. Williams hit a three, while Boum converted one of the Miners’ three three-point plays that put UTEP up 54-49 with 9:24 to play.
After a back-and-forth late stretch, UTEP took its biggest lead of the night 67-61 lead with nine seconds remaining after Hawkins buried a pair of free throws. But the pesky Blue Raiders made it a three-point contest (67-64) after Millner hit his third trey of the game.
Lathon, after being intentionally fouled, missed a pair of free throws that led the Green shooting a desperation deep three, in which Jackson tipped in the miss to make it a one-point game with one second.
However, time expired and UTEP escaped with the one-point victory.
Middle Tennessee jumped out to a 22-9 lead after Jo’vontae Millner connected on his second three in the half, followed by a two-point bucket at the 13:45 mark.
“We needed to set the tone with our defense, and we didn’t do that the first four minutes,” Terry said. “They [Middle Tennessee] came out and put their will on us to start the ball game. They made shots and scored points in the paint. But we stepped us to get back in the ball game.”
UTEP answered with a 15-0 run that stared with a made jumper by Williams. He scored six of those points, while Odigie drained a three-pointer. MT would take a six-point lead (32-28), but UTEP scored six of the next eight points to end the half and go into the locker room tied at 34-34.
Up next, UTEP will host UAB on Saturday, Feb. 1. The Miners and Blazers are set to tipoff at 7 p.m. in the Haskins Center.
The game can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen calling the action. The contest will also be streamed on ESPN+ with Duke Keith and Leonard Owens on the mic.
Video courtesy UTEP | Gallery by Johnny Yturales – El Paso Herald Post