UTEP, NMSU set to meet in Battle of I-10 on the hardwood

College Sports

EL PASO, Texas — For the first time since 2019, UTEP and New Mexico State will meet on the hardwood after not playing last season. The Aggies will host the Miners in the first matchup of a home-and-home series on Saturday at the Pan American Center.

UTEP notes

Fresh off its 85-57 season-opening win against Division II foe Western New Mexico, the UTEP men’s basketball team (1-0) will head up the road to play at I-10 rival NM State (1-0) at 7 p.m. MT Saturday (Nov. 13). It’s the 220th meeting between the schools, which first squared off in 1914. Steve Kaplowitz and former Miner Hooper Vint will be on the call, which can be followed on 600 ESPN El Paso and the UTEP Miners App. The game will also be streamed on ESPN+. It marks the third time in the past four years that the programs will be locking up in UTEP’s second contest of the campaign. It is the first of two meetings on the season between the schools, with the Aggies set to make the return visit to El Paso in the “Stripe Out The Don” game on Dec. 3. It is the first meeting between the programs since the 2019-20 season, with Covid protocols preventing the teams from locking up last year. It’s also the initial match-up between the foes since it was announced NM State would join the Miners in Conference USA beginning in 2023.

SERIES HISTORY: NM STATE Leads, 115-104: LAST MEETING: at NM STATE 59, UTEP 56 (12/3/2019)
NM State leads the all time series with UTEP, 115-104. It is the Miners’ oldest series, while rating as the second oldest for the Aggies. It began in 1914 and the two squads squared off at least twice annually every year since 1944-45 before Covid interrupted that last season. NM State has a 63-40 margin in Las Cruces, aided by peeling off nine straight at home. UTEP’s last road win in the series was 11 years ago, 74-72, on Nov. 30, 2010, which was Tim Floyd’s first year at the helm. Most recently in 2019-20, the two sides split with both squads successfully defending their home court. This will be head coach Joe Golding‘s first match-up against NM State, while Aggies’ head coach Chris Jans is 5-1 against the Miners. NM State has won 10 of the last 11.

C.J. Bobbitt scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, leading NM State to a 59-56 win over UTEP in the Battle of I-10 on Dec. 3, 2019, at the Pan American Center. Bobbitt was 3-for-4 from the field, 2-for-3 from three-point range and 4-for-4 from the line over the final 20 minutes as the Aggies (5-4) handed the Miners (5-1) their first loss of the season and salvaged a split in the season series. NM State outscored the Miners in the paint (32-22) and controlled the glass (36-28), overcoming a dominant performance by UTEP’s Bryson Williams, who scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half. Williams finished 9-for-13 from the floor, 4-for-6 from three-point range and 5-for-6 from the line while adding nine rebounds for the Miners.  Williams, Souley Boum (11 points) and Daryl Edwards (nine) accounted for 47 of UTEP’s 56 points.

NM State returned four starters and five lettermen total from last year’s team that finished 12-8 during a heavily Covid-affected campaign that prevented the Aggies from even playing a game in Las Cruces throughout the entire season. They were one of two teams in the nation without a home game. NM State went 7-6 in WAC action and advanced to the 2021 tournament championship game. The Aggies also brought in 13 newcomers. NM State opened the 2021-22 season with a come-from-behind 62-51 win against UC Irvine on Nov. 9, its first home game in 615 days. The Aggies closed the contest on an 11-3 run. Five different players reached double figures in scoring, with transfer Teddy Allen leading the way at 14 points. They were picked first in the Western Athletic Conference preseason poll, with Allen, Johnny McCants, Jabari Rice and Donnie Tillman being named to an All-Preseason team. NM State is under the direction of fifth-year head coach Chris Jans, who is 96-25 in that timeframe. Overall Jans is 117-37. He is 5-1 against the Miners. New Mexico State is a major university in Las Cruces, N.M., which was founded in 1888 under the name of Las Cruces College. Notable alumni include actor Scott Bailey, who is best known for his playing the role of Sandy Foster on the CBS soap opera Guiding Light, and former Olympic basketball player Chito Reyes. Additionally, Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the planet Pluto (since reclassified to a dwarf planet), taught astronomy at the school from 1955 until his retirement in 1973.

Jamal Bieniemy
 poured in 23 points (one shy of career high), including a career-high tying five 3-pointers, and UTEP played with plenty of energy in a season-opening 85-57 vanquishing of Division II Western New Mexico in front of 6,751 fans at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 9. It marked the largest crowd in a season opener in six years. Keonte Kennedy flirted with a double-double (11 points, six rebounds) to join Bieniemy in double figures for scoring. It marked Kennedy’s 25th consecutive contest with points. Jorell Saterfield tallied a bench-high nine points, all in the second half. Bonke Maring added eight points (3-5 FG) and three boards. Emmanuel White (seven points), Jamari Sibley (six points) and Christian Agnew (six points). UTEP dished out 19 assists, with Bieniemy leading the way while at four while Alfred Hollins and Kezza Giffa each had three.  The Miners connected on 50.0 percent from the floor (31-62), including 42.2 percent from downtown (12-28). UTEP’s pressure defense caused WNMU fits. The Mustangs were forced into 26 turnovers that the Orange and Blue turned into 28 points.

–     UTEP nailed 12 triples, two shy of cracking into the Miners’ single-game records.
–     Eleven different Miners scored in the game while all 14 who suited up played.
–     UTEP had advantages for points off turnovers (28-13), points in the paint (28-14), second-chance points (8-4), fast break points (13-2) and bench scoring (34-27).
–     Jamal Bieniemy was one point (23) shy of his career high while matching his career bests for 3-pointers made (five) and field goals attempted (15). He set it for 3-pointers attempted (nine).
–     Keonte Kennedy had a career-best six 3-pointers attempted, while matching his personal high for free throws made (three).
–     Ze’Rik Onyema pulled down a career-best two rebounds and registered his third block of his career.

UTEP dispatched Division II foe Western New Mexico, 85-57, to win its season opener on Nov. 9. The Miners led for all but 42 seconds in the contest, and the 28-point differential was the largest for the first game of the year since they blasted Louisiana College, 100-50, (50 points) on Nov. 10, 2017. It marked the seventh straight season that the Orange and Blue scored 80+ points in their campaign lid lifter. UTEP has now won 10 straight season-opening contests and 56 of the past 61. It also improved to 75-26 all time in season openers, including 38-4 when doing so in the Don Haskins Center.
UTEP has won 13 consecutive home games in nonconference action, including standing at 1-0 in the situation this year. Seven straight and nine of the 13 during the surge have come by double figures. The last non league home loss came at the hands of Norfolk State, 75-62, on Dec. 21, 2018.

–    This is the 101st season of UTEP men’s basketball, with the Miners sporting an all time record of 1423-1094 (1-0 in 2021-22). There are 17 home games (1-0 currently) and 13 road contests (0-0 currently) prior to the C-USA Championships (March 8-12, 2022).
–    The Miners returned four starters (Jamal BieniemySouley BoumKeonte Kennedy and Tydus Verhoeven) and eight lettermen overall. Other returning lettermen are Christian AgnewCam ClardyGilles Dekoninck and Ze’Rik OnyemaEmmanuel White, who redshirted, is came back
–    UTEP has six newcomers in the fold in the form of KezzaGiffaAlfred HollinsKevin KaluBonke MaringJorell Saterfield and Jamari Sibley.
 –   The Miners brought back four of their five leading scorers from 2020-21 in the form of Souley Boum (18.8 ppg), Keonte Kennedy (8.6 ppg), Jamal Bieniemy (8.6 ppg) and Christian Agnew (6.1 ppg).

JUCO standout Jon Dos Anjos (nationally-ranked Florida SouthWestern State) has signed a national letter intent to enroll at UTEP and play for the men’s basketball team beginning in 2022-23. Dos Anjos will have two years of eligibility for the Miners. He was a first-team all-league performer for the Bucs in 2020-21, helping them go 18-5 and advance to the semifinals of the FCSAA State Tournament. He averaged 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds while playing in all 23 games, including 20 starts.

Joe Golding
 has embarked on his first season with UTEP, and as the 20th head coach in program history. He is the eighth head coach for the Miners since legendary Hall of Fame Coach Don Haskins retired following the 1998-99 season. Golding is 159-144 in his 11th season as a collegiate head coach, with the first 10 years at Abilene Christian. He led the Wildcats to the past two NCAA Tournaments played, including a stunning upset as a 14-seed of third-seeded Texas in the first round of the 2021 Big Dance.

First-year head coach Joe Golding is looking to be part of an exclusive group at UTEP as heads into the 2021-22 campaign. Of the previous 19 head coaches at UTEP, only three have put together a winning season in their first year on the sidelines in the Sun City. Don Haskins became the first when he directed the Miners to a mark of 18-6 in 1961-62. Doc Sadler (27-8, 2004-05) and Tim Floyd (25-10, 2010-11) also achieved the feat. Overall the prior 19 head coaches have combined to forge an average record of 9-13 in their first year with UTEP.

The Miners have an experienced staff on the sidelines for the 2021-22 season, each of whom are in their first year in the Sun City. Between head coach Joe Golding (22 years), associate head coach Jeremy Cox (30 years) and assistant coaches Butch Pierre (37 years) and Earl Boykins (eight years), the Miner coaching staff has a combined 97 years of experience at coaches at 26 different stops along the ways at varying levels of competition. Boykins is the least experienced in terms of coaching, but he’s the most accomplished on the court after playing 12 seasons in the NBA.

Souley Boum
 was tabbed a Preseason All-Conference honoree, it was announced before the season by the Conference USA office. A 2021 All C-USA third team member, Boum ranked third in C-USA in scoring (18.8 ppg) and fifth in the league in total points (450). He also paced the conference and was 15th in the country with 130 made free throws. Boum knocked down his free throws at a rate of 81.2 percent, which was good enough for eighth in C-USA. He also led UTEP in steals (34) and dished out 60 assists. Boum set career highs in points (34) and assists (11) versus Sul Ross State. He scored 24 points and pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds in a win against LA Tech. The explosive scorer poured in 28 points, aided by a career-best 15 made free throws, in a win against FIU. He scored 20-plus points in five consecutive games from Jan. 22-Feb. 5, averaging 22.6 ppg during the hot streak. Boum buried a career-high six 3-pointers to help him finish with 23 points in a victory Charlotte.

UTEP was predicted to finish 10th in Conference USA, according to the preseason poll that was announced prior to the season by the league office. UAB (190 points) was slated first, followed by LA Tech (second-184 points), WKU (third-162 points), Marshall (fourth-147 points), Old Dominion (fifth-130 points), North Texas (sixth-124 points), Charlotte (seventh-110 points), Rice (eighth-104 points), Florida Atlantic (ninth-84 points), UTEP (10th-82 points), UTSA (11th-48 points), Southern Miss (12th-42 points), FIU (13th-36 points) and Middle Tennessee (14th-28 points).

UTEP enters the 2021-22 season in search of its first winning record in Conference USA play since 2017 when the Miners went 12-6 in the league to finish tied for third. That year capped a run of five straight seasons with winning marks in conference action, the longest since 11 straight such efforts under Don Haskins from 1980-90.

UTEP returns home to host NAIA foe Northern New Mexico College at 7 p.m. MT Tuesday (Nov. 16). Jon Teicher (41st year) and Steve Yellen (19th year) will be on the call, which can be followed on 600 ESPN El Paso, the UTEP Miners App and CUSA TV (subscription required). For tickets, fans may call the Eisenberg Family Ticket Office at (915) 747-UTEP, email tickets@utep.edu, or visit www.UTEPMiners.com/tickets or in person (Brumbelow Building on UTEP campus, 201 Glory Road) Monday thru Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

NMSU notes

• One of the oldest rivalries in the history of NM State men’s basketball reignites Saturday night inside the Pan American Center as NM State and UTEP battle for the first time since 2019. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m.
• NM State fans around the nation can tune in to the action as the 219th installment of the all-time showdown between the Aggies and Miners is set to be streamed on ESPN+ and the ESPN app. Over the airwaves, Comcast New Mexico will televise each and every second of the action.
• The play-by-play and analysis combo of Adam Young and Rus Bradburd are set to narrate the action on both the linear TV network and the ESPN+ stream. Over the airwaves, in lieu legendary radio play-by-play man Jack Nixon who will be in Alabama with the Aggies’ football team, Tim Hagerty will set up shop courtside to call the action.
• Hagerty’s play-by-play and analysis can be heard on 99.5 Zia Country FM in Las Cruces, N.M., and nationwide on The Varsity Network app.
• Affiliate stations of the Aggie Sports Network can be tuned in to in Artesia, N.M. (990 AM), Carlsbad, N.M. (1240 AM), Gallup, N.M. (94.9 FM), Alamogordo, N.M. (103.7 FM) and El Paso, Texas (1380 AM). All of those stations will also carry Nixon’s commentary of Tuesday night’s tilt.
• Tickets for Saturday night’s clash can be purchased ahead of tip-off at both the Pan American Center Ticket Office or online. Ticket specials for Saturday night’s game include $10 upper-level seats for Memorial Medical Center employees. Those tickets must be purchased prior to gameday.
• All tickets in section 119 of the Pan American Center will be available for $10 on the day of the game. 

• The second-lengthiest series in the history of the program behind their one against in-state rival New Mexico, the Aggies have battled UTEP 218 times dating back to 1915. On November 12, 2019, the Aggies saw their nine-game winning streak against the Miners get snapped after UTEP claimed a 65-50 victory inside the Don Hawkins Center.
• Only two events – World War II and the COVID-19 pandemic – have prevented NM State and UTEP from meeting on annual basis since 1923. By failing to play last season, it marked the first time since 1944 in which the Aggies and Miners didn’t duke it out on the hardwood.
• The Aggies’ longest winning streak in the all-time series came between 1932 and 1940 when they won 20-straight over UTEP.
• NM State’s nine-game winning streak headed into the 2019-20 campaign was its third-longest in the history of the series and heading into Saturday’s tilt the Aggies have won nine of the
last 10 and 13 of the last 15 matchups between the two programs. Three of the Aggies’ last nine wins have come by 20 points or more.
• NM State bench boss Chris Jans is 5-1 (.800) against UTEP during his tenure in Las Cruces.
• The Miners are just one of a multitude of current Conference USA squads the Aggies have done battle with in the history of men’s basketball at NM State. All-time, the Aggies hold a 172-133 (.564) winning percentage against current C-USA programs and are above the .500 mark against each team from that league they have played with the exception of Charlotte (0-1) and Southern Miss (1-9).
• A little over 10-percent (10.6-percent) of NM State’s 1,618 program wins have come at the hands of current C-USA institutions.

LAST TIME OUT vs. UTEP | NM State 59, UTEP 56 | Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019
• Although the converted just one field goal in the final 6:03, the Aggies made use of stout defense and timely free throw shooting to claim a 59-56 victory over UTEP inside the Pan American Center.
• C.J. Bobbitt scored six of the last seven points for NM State and wound up finishing with a team-high 14 points in his team’s triumph over the Miners.
• UTEP had a glimmer of hope late, but misfired on a pair of game-tying attempts from three-point land in the final six seconds of action.
• The Miners manufactured a pair of early five-point leads, the last of which came when Nigel Hawkins converted a fast break layup to make matters 13-8 with 9:47 to go in the opening stanza.
• NM State answered that fast-break score with a 17-5 run through the next 7:31 to secure the lead for the remainder of the game.
• One of the biggest factors in NM State’s win was the effectiveness of its reserves. The Aggies’ bench amassed 25 points while the Miners’ reserves contributed only four points to their squad’s cause.
• NM State held a 36-28 (+8) edge on the glass to help win the day as well.
• The victory pushed NM State head coach Chris Jans‘ record against UTEP to 5-1.
• Of the 18 players who took part in this game, only five remain on the respective rosters and are available to play for NM State and UTEP ahead of Saturday night’s clash. For the Aggies, that group consists of Johnny McCants, Will McNair and Jabari Rice while the Miners’ twosome of Souley Boum and Tydus Verhoeven return.

LAST TIME OUT | NM State 62, UC Irvine 51 | Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021
• A men’s basketball game occurred in the Pan American Center for the first tine in 19 months and as is usually the case NM State wound up on top. In the Aggies’ 2021-22 season opener, NM State used double-digit scoring performances from five players along with an 11-3 run through the final 5:08 to claim a 62-51 victory over UC Irvine.
• Six players made their NM State debut and in all seven Aggies played their first games inside the Pan American Center. Teddy Allen finished with a game-high 14 points while Jabari Rice and Pan Am Center first-timer Mario McKinney Jr., pumped in 12 apiece.
• Donnie Tillman added 10 points as did Will McNair Jr., who got the second start of his career and responded by putting up 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots in 26 minutes of action.
• Johnny McCants’ scoring total was just four, but his presence was felt in a major was elsewhere. The Las Cruces, N.M., product generated a game-best eight rebounds and added a career-high four blocked shots.
• UC Irvine led 2-0 early, but that was the only advantage the Anteaters enjoyed through the 40-minute bout.
• With the win, NM State moved to 2-0 in the Chris Jans coaching era against UC Irvine and also won its season opener once again under Jans. NM State’s bench boss is a perfect 5-0 in season openers while leading the Aggies.
• UC Irvine’s 51 points marked the ninth time in Jans’ tenure that the Aggies limited a Division I foe to 52 points or less.

• NM State moved to 71-42-1 all-time in season openers with Tuesday night’s 62-51 win over UC Irvine.
• The 51 points scored by UC Irvine represented the lowest point total by an NCAA Division I opponent against NM State in a season opener in program history. Both times the Aggies have opened a season against NCAA Division I competition under Jans, they have limited the opposition to fewer than 60 points.
• The Aggies went 15-of-16 from the free throw line in Tuesday night’s victory, good for an accuracy rate of 93.8-percent. That’s the second-best single-game free throw shooting percentage in Chris Jans‘ tenure at NM State. The only performance from the line that bettered that under Jans came Feb. 27 at Grand Canyon where NM State went a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe in their WAC win over the Lopes.

• Joe Golding remained in the Lone Star State to coach basketball, but he traveled to its westernmost point this summer by accepting the job as UTEP’s head coach on April 13, 2021. Golding spent his first 10 seasons as a head coach at Southland Conference program Abilene Christian, notable leading the Wildcats to two NCAA Tournament appearances and an upset of third-seeded Texas in the opening round of last season’s Big Dance.
• Golding and the Miners won their opener against Western New Mexico by an 85-57 tally Tuesday night and they’ll look to string together back-to-back wins for the first time in Golding’s tenure in El Paso Saturday night against the Aggies.
• Much of the focus on opponent scouting reports will go to stopping high-scoring guard Jamal Bieniemy. After transferring in from Oklahoma, the New Orleans, La., product debuted for UTEP last season and averaged 8.6 points and 4.0 assists per game for the Miners’ 12-12 club.
• Bieniemy pumped in a game-high 23 points in his team’s season-opening win over Western New Mexico Tuesday night while Keonte Kennedy added 11 on 3-of-11 shooting to begin his second season of affiliation with UTEP.
• One of the biggest missing pieces for the Miners Tuesday night was Souley Boum who suffered a hand injury in October. There’s a strong chance the Miners will get their Preseason All-C-USA selection back for Saturday night’s showdown inside the Pan American Center. Last season, Boum topped the Miners’ scoring charts at 18.8 points per game.
• Saturday night marks the first regular-season tilt between Golding and NM State head coach Chris Jans. Prior to the start of the 2019-20 season, Golding and Abilene Christian duked it out with NM State in a closed scrimmage.
• While Golding does not have any non-scrimmage, head-to-head experience against Jans, he has coached against a pair of current NM State players. While at Abilene Christian, Golding and the Wildcats were on the wrong end of a 72-58 result against UNLV and Donnie Tillman on Nov. 18, 2019. Last season, Golding’s troops at Abilene Christian posted an 80-72 victory over Austin Peay and Mike Peake on Nov. 27, 2020.

• For the second time in his tenure as the Aggies’ head coach, Chris Jans will coach a game on November 13.
• In Jans’ first game on Nov. 13 as NM State’s leader, the Aggies dropped a 92-74 decision at #21/22 St. Mary’s in 2017.
• NM State is 2-3 all-time on this date with their first-ever game on November 13 coming in 1998 against UTEP. That season, under the direction of legendary head coach Lou Henson, the Aggies secured a 59-57 victory over the Miners at the Don Haskins Center.
• Each time the Aggies have won a game on Nov. 13, they have gone on to secure conference regular-season titles and spots in postseason tournaments (NCAA in 1998-99, NIT in 2015-16).

• For their first road trip of the 2021-22 campaign, the Aggies head to South Carolina as one of eight teams who are set to take part in the 2021 Myrtle Beach Invitational. In addition to NM State, Davidson, East Carolina, Indiana State, Oklahoma, Old Dominion, Penn and Utah State will be making the trip to Conway, S.C., for the invitational. NM State’s opening game in the Myrtle Beach Invitational comes Thursday at 10:00 a.m. MT when they duke it out with A-10 power Davidson inside the HTC Center. The second meeting between the Aggies and Wildcats will be televised nationwide on ESPNU.

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