EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The UTEP men’s basketball program started its 100th season by hitting the century mark in a win over UT-Permian Basin, 100-81, on Wednesday night in an empty Don Haskins Center.
Six Miners scored in double figures led by Souley Boum’s game-high 23 points on Wednesday night.
The Miners’ 100 points are the most points scored during the Rodney Terry era, the most since hitting the same number on Nov. 10, 2017. However, unlike any other campaign, the Miners did it in front of no fans as sports have taken on a different landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With Thanksgiving Day coming on Thursday, Terry and his squad is just thankful he’s just thankful for the start of the college basketball season.
“The surreal part for us is that we’re actually getting a chance to play,” said Terry. “We were unsure, uncertain that we were going to play a season and now we’re actually getting a chance to play. It’s a season where we don’t start off with an exhibition game and we didn’t have a controlled scrimmage. So, it’s your first game and you’re trying to figure your team out.”
UTEP dished out 20 assists, led by Jamal Bieniemy’s nine dimes. The junior transfer from Oklahoma added 12 points, a team-high three steals and had zero turnovers in his first game in a UTEP uniform.
“[Jamal Bieniemy] was a steady glue guy [at Oklahoma],” said Terry. “He was a guy who could steady the ship and was a really low turnover guy. The thing we challenge with him here, is that we didn’t want him to be that same guy because we think he can do more. We think that he can score and we think he can be more of a focal type player for us.”
Xavier transfer Keonte Kennedy (16 points), Georgia Tech transfer Kristian Sjolund (12) and California Baptist transfer Adam Hess (11) also hit double figures in their UTEP debuts. Kennedy grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds to post his first collegiate double-double, while Sjolund shot an efficient 4-for-5 from the field, including 2-for-3 from downtown off the bench. Hess was perfect from the floor, hitting four threes off the bench. Meanwhile, Bryson Williams added 14 points and seven boards on a quiet night for his standards.
The Miners had just 10 turnovers, while the bench came up with 33 points. Vuk Vulikic dished out four assists and scored two points in his Miner debut, while Efe Odigie tallied six points and three rebounds. Freshman Ze’Rik Onyema scored two points on a monster dunk at the end of the game. Tydus Verhoeven led the team with three blocked shots, while adding four rebounds and two points.
“We’ve been working for this for a long time,” said Bieniemy. “To be able to come out tonight — everyone was excited and had great energy. We are just going to look to continue and build on this performance.”
UTEP will hit the road to play at Pac-12 power Arizona on Sunday, Nov. 29. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. MT in the McKale Center. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.