EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — It has been an up-and-down start to the 2020-21 UTEP men’s basketball season. The Miners scored a Power-5 win over Arizona State in December before the start of conference play, but have started play within Conference USA at a mediocre 2-2. UTEP has split series with Southern Miss and Rice.
Through it all, it is hard to ignore the Miners’ guard play. Newcomer Jamal Bieniemy has played the point guard position at an elite level and it has allowed junior guard Souley Boum to evolve as more of a scorer. Through the first 10 games of the season, Boum is averaging 17.6 points per game and has scored 17+ points in seven of those 10 games.
“I do my best to instill confidence in my teammates and try to carry that role on my shoulders. I know that it’s harder to do than said,” said Boum. “It has been just getting accustomed to the team and getting comfortable. The second part of last season, I started getting more comfortable and finding my spot in the rotation.”
Boum averaged 12.9 points per game last season as a sophomore and head coach Rodney Terry believes the uptick in his production has been a product of better guard play as a whole.
“College basketball and even in the NBA — it’s all predicated on guards,” said Terry. “Your guards have to get out and set the pace for you and they have to be able to make good decisions and make simple plays.”
Bieniemy is averaging 12.6 points per game this season, but is distributing the basketball at a high level. The Oklahoma transfer has dished out 48 assists (5.3 assists per game) and has committed just 12 turnovers — one of the top assist-to-turnover ratios in the country for a point guard.
On paper, the Miners have a roster that can compete with anyone in Conference USA. However, UTEP has lacked consistency through their first four conference games. This past weekend is a prime example of inconsistencies, scoring 101 points on Friday night in a win over Rice, but turning around 24 hours later and putting up just 68 points in a loss to the Owls.
UTEP doesn’t need to hit the century mark every time they take the floor to have a chance to win, but they do need to find a way to put all phases of the game together night-in and night-out, play fast, and play up to their potential.