EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The UTEP men’s basketball team will play their most important home swing of the season to-date when they welcome Florida Atlantic (FAU) and Florida International (FIU) to town. The Miners will host the Owls on Thursday night at the Don Haskins Center, followed by the Panthers on Saturday.

UTEP (11-8, 4-3 C-USA) has won three straight and playing with more consistency on both ends of the floor. The Miners used an overtime win at Old Dominion as momentum into a sweep of UTSA last week, and will look to make it four in-a-row against Conference USA’s East Division leader FAU.

“Florida Atlantic deserves our full attention. They’re winning the east, they’ve won three games in-a-row, they are extemely well coached by Dusty [May] who does a great job, and they have great players,” said UTEP head coach Joe Golding. “They have really good guard play, their bigs fit perfectly for what they like to do, and they’re coming in here with a ton of confidence. They have our full attention.”

FAU (11-8, 4-2 C-USA) is coming off wins over Charlotte, Western Kentucky and Marshall. The Owls are the top three-point shooting team in the country, and have three players averaging in double figures, led by junior guard Michael Forrest (14.1 ppg).

“It’s a really big game,” said UTEP sophomore guard Jorell Saterifield, who is shooting nearly 50 percent from three point range this season. “We have a chance to get a win against a great team, the number one team in the east. It’s the best team in the east right now, so, we have a great chance.”

After playing on Sunday at UTSA, UTEP will have one less day of preparation. Some Golding and the staff have had to make adjustments for in their gameplan installments.

“I would’ve liked to have had three days of prep like them,” said Golding. “They got three days of prep, and we only got in two days, but we can’t make excuses.”

Tip-off at the Don Haskins Center is slated for 7 p.m. on Thursday. The game will stream live on CUSA-TV.

GAME NOTES (Via: UTEP Athletics)

SERIES HISTORY: TIED, 5-5

The series with Florida Atlantic and UTEP is tied, 5-5, including a slight edge (3-2) for FAU when playing in El Paso. Most recently the Owls crept past the Miners at the 2021 Conference USA Championships, 76-70, on March 10, 2021. Thursday’s game will be the first in the regular season since 2019-20 after last year’s scheduled match-ups at FAU were canceled.

THIS & THAT

–   UTEP is above .500 (4-3) for the first time in league play thanks to winning three straight and four of its past five league contests. The past three triumphs have been by 18 points total.

–   The Miners had a +19.7 scoring difference in their first seven wins, with each by at least nine points. The three ensuing victories have come by 18 combined points, proving UTEP’s mettle.

–    UTEP has used the same starting line-up in six straight games, by far the longest  stretch of the season. It has used 12 total line-up combos, tied for second in the nation behind multiple schools.

–    The Miners are 65-86 on free throws in C-USA play. Opponents are 106-157.

–   UTEP is 10-2 on the season when drilling at least eight 3-point shots. That record includes a school-recording tying 15 makes from distance against Southern Miss in the win on Jan. 8.

–   The Miners stand at 8-1 when scoring 70+ points (4-0 getting into the 80’s).

–   UTEP sports a mark of 10-3 on the campaign when limiting foes to 72 points or less, including 5-1 when keeping them in the 50’s.

–   UTEP is 9-2 when making at least 40 percent of its shots and 6-0 when the opponent falls shy of that figure.

–   The Miners are 10-1 when leading with five minutes to play.

–   Nine of UTEP’s 11 wins of the year have been the come-from-behind variety, including the season-best 13 points overcome against UTSA on Jan. 11. There have been rallies of at least seven points five times total this season.

–   UTEP is 4-4 on the road, including back-to-back victories in league play. That hadn’t happened since the end of the 2020 C-USA campaign. The four road triumphs are already the most such victories since the 2016-17 season (5-6 mark).

–   The Miners have secured a win in all four mainland time zones in the US.

–   UTEP has had its top three scorers (Souley Boum-18.6 ppg, Jamal Bieniemy-14.6 and Keonte Kennedy-13.3) on the court in the same game just six times out of 19 total games this season.

GET TO KNOW FAU

Florida Atlantic is flying high, having won three straight games to improve to 11-8, and 4-2 in league play to get atop the standings in the East Division. It is the program’s best start to C-USA action. In the most-recent week of action, the Owls knocked off both Western Kentucky and Marshall.  FAU is putting up 75.2 points per game (fifth C-USA/95th NCAA), aided by nailing 9.1 triples per contest (third/51st NCAA). The Owls top the league for rebounding margin (+5.1-first/58th) and are fifth in C-USA and 88th nationally for 3-point percentage (35.7-fifth/88th). Individually Michael Forrest (14.1 ppg-14th C-USA), Alijah Martin (13.7 ppg) and Bryan Greenlee (10.2 ppg) are all in double figures for scoring while Everett Winchester pitches in 7.5 ppg. Forrest makes 2.8 threes per game (fourth C-USA/56th NCAA) while Martin hits 2.4 triples per contest (sixth C-USA). It is a team effort on the glass with Martin (5.4) and Vladislav Goldin each pulling down 5.4 rpg.  FAU is under the direction of fourth-year head coach Dusty May (58-49), who is the first coach at the school with three straight winning seasons at the NCAA DI level. Notable FAU alumni include Don Brewer (drummer and founding member of the band Grand Funk Railroad), Fern “Peachy” Kellymeyer (1999 Tennis Hall of Fame Inductee) and Carrot Top (Prop Comedian with Vegas Show).

GOING BACK IN TIME (AT UTEP 69, UTSA 64, JAN. 23 2022)

Jamal Bieniemy stuffed the sheet (18 points, career-high tying 11 rebounds, six assists), Jorell Saterfield poured in 15 points to go along with six rebounds and Souley Boum added 11 points (two late free throws), while the defense did the rest in UTEP’s 59-54 victory at UTSA on Jan. 25. UTEP limited UTSA to 34.5 percent (20-58), aided by 11 blocked shots, its highest total since a 12-block effort against Middle Tennessee on Jan. 12, 2014. Bieniemy’s double-double was the first on the year by a Miner. He also paced the team in points, rebounds and assists, becoming the first UTEP player to achieve that feat since 2017 (Keith Frazier).

TIP-INS FROM THE UTSA GAME

–   Jamari Sibley (career-high five blocks) and Tydus Verhoeven (four rejections) accounted for all but two of the swats in the contest for UTEP.  Sibley’s five swats were the most by a Miner since Verhoeven had five at No. 13/14 Kansas on March 4, 2021. 

–   The Miners shared the ball well with 14 assists on 21 made field goals.

–   All three career 10+ rebounding games for Jamal Bieniemy have  now come against UTSA (one with Oklahoma, two with UTEP). He had 11 in the win on Jan. 23. His previous 11-rebound contest occurred against the Roadrunners in the first contest of the 2019-20 when he was suited up for OU.

–   UTEP’s 10-point lead at the half (30-20) was its largest in a road contest this year.

THE COMEBACK AT CHARTWAY

UTEP trailed Old Dominion by seven points (63-56), with 77 seconds remaining before tallying the final seven points in regulation to force OT. The Miners went on to claim the 78-70 triumph for one of their most memorable comebacks. Here’s the breakdown to force OT before Souley Boum tallied 13 of UTEP’s 15 points in the extra session for the notable win.

GOING BACK IN THE ARCHIVES

After research from local media, members of the athletic department and even the Miners’ passionate fan base (via Twitter), the closest comeback that can be found similar to that was in the 1987 NCAA Tournament at Arizona on March 13, 1987. In that tilt, UTEP trailed by five with 50 seconds left (78-53) before forcing OT on the way to the 98-91 OT win.

MEMORABLE WIN VS SOUTHERN MISS

UTEP blasted Southern Miss, 87-54, on Jan. 8. The 33-point victory was UTEP’s biggest in league play in seven years when it waxed USM by 34 (74-40) on Jan. 10, 2015. The Miners nailed a school-record tying 15 triples, the most by the Miners at home 12 years when they also had 15 against East Carolina on Feb. 13, 2012.  UTEP set season highs for field-goal percentage (56.1 percent), aided by a campaign-best 24 assists on 32 field goals made. The Orange and Blue also established DI opponent season highs for points in the first half (44) and total points (87).

CAN’T CATCH A BREAK

Due to injury or illness, the Miners have lost 28 man games this year (Keonte Kennedy-seven, Christian Agnew-six, Souley Boum-four, Cam Clardy-three, Tydus Verhoeven-three, Jamal Bieniemy-two, Alfred Hollins-one, Bonke Maring-one and Ze’Rik Onyema-one). No individual has started in every single contest, and UTEP is tied for second in the country (according to recent NCAA report) with 12 different line-up combinations. At least one starter has missed a game in 11 straight games and 14 contests total this season. Additionally, no one on the roster has appeared in every contest.

LOCK DOWN ON DEFENSE

UTEP has kept 11 of its past 16 opponents to at least five points below their scoring average entering the contest, including most recently UTSA on Jan. 23. Those 11 foes have been held to a total of 125 points combined under the expected output, which works out to 11.4 fewer points per game by the opposition across the board. The overall affect has been a scoring defense of 64.6 to rank fourth in C-USA and 72nd nationally.

ON THIS DATE IN UTEP HISTORY

Miner legend and USA Olympian Jim Forbes posted a double-double (14 pts/13 rbs) against Wyoming on Jan. 27, 1973.

ALL ABOUT THE FANS

UTEP is averaging 4,673 fans per home game in 2021-22, which trails only the seasonal home average of 5,157 for ODU among C-USA programs.

SCORING STREAK

Souley Boum (71), Keonte Kennedy (36) and Jamal Bieniemy (19) and Jorell Saterfield (11)  and Alfred Hollins (10) all have scoring streaks of at least 10 games Furthermore, Kennedy is at a career-long five for double-digit streaks while Bieniemy stands at six in a row, one game shy of his longest streak earlier in the year before an injury during the setback at No. 8 Kansas on Dec. 7

MIX AND MATCH

UTEP has used 12 starting line-ups in 19 games, tying for the second-most combinations nationally (multiple teams with 13) according to a report compiled by the NCAA. Overall, 11 different Miners (out of 15 on the roster) have started. Injuries, illnesses and Covid-19 protocols have played a big factor in the mix and match this season. It’s a huge change from a year ago when the Miners utilized two starting line-ups with a total of six different players starting on the season. In 2019-20 there were eight, seven in 2018-19, 17 in 2017-18, eight in 2016-17 and 14 in 2015-16.

ALL ABOUT THOSE POINTS

UTEP poured in a DI season-high 87 points in the rout of Southern Miss, its fourth game with at least 80 points this year. That is the most such efforts in a campaign by a UTEP team since 2018-19 when it also had four in the entire season. The Miners also eclipsed 70 points in each of the first four contests for the first time in six years. Guards Souley Boum (18.6 ppg), Jamal Bieniemy (14.6 ppg) and Keonte Kennedy (13.3 ppg) and are all in double figures for scoring average while Jorell Saterfield is now up to 8.9 ppg thanks to his 33 points combined in the victories against UTSA on Jan. 20 and Jan. 23. The last time UTEP had a player account for at least 20.0 ppg was in 2008-09 (Stephon Jackson), something Boum is 1.4 ppg shy of currently doing. Jamari Sibley (5.4 ppg) is also above 5.0 ppg. 

TURN IT OVER

UTEP is third in Conference USA and 50th in the country by forcing 15.7 turnovers per game, which is aided by coming up with 7.8 steals per game (fourth C-USA/77thth NCAA). Keonte Kennedy (2.1 spg), Jamal Bieniemy (1.8 spg-sixth C-USA/86th NCAA) and Souley Boum (1.6-seventh C-USA) have all been key to leading the charge.

THAT’S A GOOD MARGIN

UTEP has caused 17+ turnovers nine times on the year while committing 14 or less on 13 occasions. Furthermore, the Miners have made the same or fewer amount of turnovers compared to the opposition in 15 of the 19 games this year. The result is a +3.8 turnover margin (second C-USA/28th NCAA). UTEP is making 11.9 turnovers per game (fifth C-USA/80th NCAA) while forcing 15.7 (third C-USA/50th).

THEY ARE CALLED FREE THROWS FOR A REASON

UTEP is taking care of business at the charity stripe, connecting on 75.5 percentage at the line (second C-USA/47th NCAA). Four different Miners have hit at least 70 percent from the charity stripe this year, with Souley Boum setting the tone at 87.3 percent (third C-USA/47th NCAA) followed by Jamal Bieniemy (84.8 percent). Boum is 96 (first C-USA/eighth NCAA) for 110 (second C-USA/28thNCAA).

WIN BIG

The first nine victories on the season were all by at least eight points, including six by double figures. The Miners even managed that feat at Old Dominion despite only having five minutes in OT (W, 78-70 on Jan. 15). The lone win by eight points or less came against UTSA last time out on Jan. 20 by five (69-64). The past two, both against UTSA, were by five points apiece.

NOTHING STOPS SOULEY

Souley Boum has dealt with both a broken finger on his non-shooting hand (missed one game), Covid-19 protocols (missed two games) and illness (missed one game) but he continues to produce. He is pouring in 18.6 ppg (third C-USA/52nd NCAA), aided by 20+ point-outings in two of the past three contests. He has 14 double-digit scoring efforts (in 15 appearances), with seven efforts of at least 20 points. He also has produced three other contests with 17+ points. Boum has also come up with 1.7 steals per game (eighth C-USA) and 3.0 assists per game (14th C-USA).

JB’S WORLD

Jamal Bieniemy has played big across the board this season. He put up double figures in scoring in the first seven games (prior long four) before sustaining an injury at No. 8 Kansas that caused him to miss the ensuing two tilts. After getting back into the line-up for the WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational, he has since regained his early season form with six consecutive contests of double-digit scoring efforts. He is second on the team for scoring (14.6 ppg-10th C-USA) and steals (1.8 spg-fifth C-USA) while topping the team in assists per game (3.6-11th C-USA). He has led the Miners in scoring in eight games (three times in ‘20-21).

KEONTE DOES IT ALL

Keonte Kennedy was having a career year before sustaining an injury against Bradley that has forced him to miss seven consecutive contests. He leads the team in rebounding (5.9 rebounds per game) and steals (2.1 steals per game- while rating third on the squad in scoring (13.3 points per game). He has started all but one game he has appeared in (11 of 12), and is playing 34.0 mpg (second on team).

SATERFIELD FROM DOWNTOWN

Jorell Saterfield is proving to be a big-time threat whether he’s starting or is coming off the bench. That is especially true from 3-point range. The Ranger College transfer is leading the team in 3-point percentage (min. 30 3FGA), nailing 49.4 percent (40-81) in 18 games played. That figure was helped by going a ridiculous 11-16 in two games last week and 31-58 (53.4 percent) the past 11 contests total. There’s plenty of basketball left, but he is on pace to  break UTEP’s single-season record for 3-point percentage (min. 1.0 3/game) that is held by Roy Smallwood (1999-00, 28-61, 45.9 percent, in 28 GP). He also leads C-USA in league-only games (53.7). Overall, he is putting up 8.9 points per game (fourth on team) in only 22.6 minutes per contest. He has come on strong of late with seven double-digit scoring efforts in the past 10 games.

KALU NETS FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK

UTEP forward Kevin Kalu was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Week, the league office announced Dec. 20. He became the first Miner to claim the honor since Jordan Lathon did during the 2018-19 season (Feb. 25, 2019). The Baltimore, Md., product came alive with career highs in points (eight) and assists (two) while adding four rebounds to help hold off upset-minded McNeese, 82-72, on Dec. 16. Kalu played 25 minutes and didn’t miss a shot from the field (2-2) or at the charity stripe (4-4).

TALKING 20+ POINT GAMES

Souley Boum has seven 20+ point games this season and 33 in his career between San Francisco (seven-2017-18) and UTEP (26). Jamal Bieniemy has surpassed 20 points four times in 2021-22, doubling his total (two) from 23 contests played a year ago.

MILESTONE TRACKER

Souley Boum (started at San Francisco) has surpassed 1,000 points in a UTEP uniform, the first Miner to join the club in five years and fifth overall. He is now up to 1,141 points (25th all time at UTEP). For his career he boasts a total of 1,535 points while appearing in 107 games (71 at UTEP). He has also made 188 3-pointers, with 140 at UTEP (fifth all time at school). Christian Agnew (started at North Alabama) is on the verge of 900 points for his collegiate career (895). Jamal Bieniemy (started at Oklahoma) has moved past 750 career points (775) for his college career, including 446 at UTEP. He’s also eclipsed 350 assists (359) for his college career, including 153 helpers at UTEP. He has appeared in more than 100 collegiate games (105), including 40 (all starts) at UTEP. Alfred Hollins (started at Oregon State) has moved beyond 500 career points (574) and surpassed 100 career games played (114). Tydus Verhoeven (started at Duquesne) has more than 350 rebounds (354) for his collegiate career, with the majority at UTEP (248). He has also topped 100 career blocks (128), with 57 at UTEP. Verhoeven is past

100 games played (102), with 76 at UTEP

THE BASIC FACTS ON UTEP

–   This is the 101st season of UTEP men’s basketball. The Miners made history by starting five African-Americans to defeat Kentucky, 72-65, and win the 1966 NCAA Championship on the way to inspiring the Disney hit movie Glory Road. Overall, UTEP has 17 NCAA Tournament appearances (last in 2010), 11 NIT bids (last in 2015), 12 conference championships (last in 2010) and 26 seasons with at least 20+ victories (last in 2015).

–   UTEP is 11-8 in 2021-22, one shy of matching its win total from the 12-12 Covid-19 affected season a year ago. There are 17 home games (7-4 thus far) and 13 road contests (4-4 thus far) 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, also came back.

–   UTEP has six newcomers: Kezza GiffaAlfred 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).

COMING SOON TO EL PASO

JUCO standout Jon Dos Anjos (nationally-ranked Florida SouthWestern State) has signed a national letter of 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.

GOLDING ERA UNDERWAY

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 170-152 in his 11th season as a collegiate head coach, including 11-8 at UTEP. He spent 10 years at ACU (158-144), helping it transition from a Division II to a Division I program. Golding 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.

LOOKING TO JOIN AN EXCLUSIVE GROUP

First-year head coach Joe Golding (11-8 thus far) is hoping to be part of an exclusive group at UTEP. 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.

EXPERIENCED STAFF

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 coaching experience  at 26 different stops along the way 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.

PRESEASON HONORS

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.

PRESEASON PREMONITIONS

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).

LOOKING TO REGAIN WINNING WAYS IN C-USA

UTEP (4-3) thus far in C-USA play) entered the 2022 league slate 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.

UP NEXT

UTEP wraps up its week at home with a 7 p.m. match-up with FIU on Saturday (Jan. 29).  Jon Teicher (41st year) and Steve Yellen (19th year) will be on the call for, which can be followed on the “Home of UTEP Basketball” 600 ESPN El Paso, the UTEP Miners App and C-USATV. For tickets, fans may call the Eisenberg Family Ticket Office at (915) 747-UTEP, email tickets@utep.edu, visit www.UTEPMiners.com/tickets or in person (Brumbelow Building on UTEP campus, 201 Glory Road).