EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Back-to-backs have become the norm in college basketball and the UTEP men’s team is still figuring out how to navigate through an anything but normal 2020-21 season. After putting up 101 points in a win over Rice on Friday night, the Miners dropped the series finale to the Owls on Saturday at the Don Haskins Center, 71-68.
“We’re not an excuse program and we’re not going to make any excuses today,” said UTEP head coach Rodney Terry. “I always say in a back-to-back, the most competitive spirit team who really wants to win the most will find a way to get it done on that second day. They [Rice] made some shots that they had to make to win the ball game and made some winning plays. My guys had great effort, but came up a little short in terms of what we needed to get done.”
UTEP (6-4, 2-2) had no answer for Max Fielder, who recorded a double-double (19 points, 13 rebounds) in the Rice (9-3, 3-1) win. Travis Evee scored a game-high 21 points and dished out six assists for the Owls.
“[Max] Fielder is a really good passer. Their whole offense runs through him,” said UTEP senior forward Bryson Williams. “He’s floating around, he gets his guys open on back cuts and things like that and the whole offense is ran through him. He’s going to be a problem either way because the ball is going to be in his hands the majority of the time. He had a big night — he did his thing tonight.”
After shooting a season-high 54.3 percent in Friday’s win, the Miners shot just over 39 percent on Saturday. In UTEP’s previous two games, both wins, they committed only seven combined turnovers, but turned the ball over 11 times Saturday’s loss.
“We got great looks, but I thought there was a time or two we were pressing a little bit for whatever reason and we were trying the play too fast,” said Terry. “At the end of the day, we didn’t make some shots we made yesterday and we had some great looks tonight.”
Jamal Bieniemy led the Miners with 16 points and three assists, while Williams (13 points) and Souley Boum (12 points) both hit double figures.
“We came out and competed, but we just fell short,” said Williams. “You want to go in and expect to win home games, but we came out and tried to play hard. We executed as hard as we could on offense and things like that, but we came up short.”
UTEP will now travel to Denton to take on North Texas in back-to-backs on Jan. 15 and 16. The Miners and Mean Green are set to tip-off at 6 p.m. MT on Friday and 2 p.m. MT on Saturday. Both games will air on Stadium,