Miners set to host McNeese State in holiday matchup at ‘The Don’


EL PASO, Texas — The UTEP men’s basketball team (5-4) will look to build on its impressive road win at New Mexico when it plays host to McNeese (3-7) in its “Holiday Hoops” game at 7 p.m. MT Thursday (Dec. 16). Santa Claus will be in attendance, and holiday music will be played throughout the game. The contest will be the first of three straight at home for the Orange and Blue, matching the longest such stretch on the season. Jon Teicher (41st year) and Steve Yellen (19th year) will be on the call, which can be followed on “The Home Of UTEP Basketball” 600 ESPN El Paso, the UTEP Miners App and C-USA 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. A historic occasion could occur, as Miners’ guard Souley Boum has a chance to surpass 1,000 career points in a UTEP uniform (987 at UTEP).


UTEP is 3-0 all time against McNeese, with each of those wins coming in El Paso. All three victories have come by double digits (W-10, W-10, W-14). The first meeting was a 82-72 UTEP win on Dec. 18, 1982. The two sides didn’t square off again until a 84-74 win on March 14, 2001, in the NIT. Most recently the Orange and Blue dispatched McNeese State, 69-54, on Dec. 19, 2012.


UTEP is averaging 5,037 fans per home game thus far in 2021-22, which trails only the seasonal home average of 5,661 for ODU. Additionally, the Miners have been forced to play in front of 8,537 on the road but are 2-2 away from home this year. That is the highest road average of any Conference USA member.


McNeese is 3-7 on the year, with eight (0-6 road, 1-1 neutral) of those contests coming outside of its home in Lake Charles, La. It is 2-0 in home contests, but enters Thursday’s match-up on a four game skid. Most recently McNeese was bested by Louisiana, 83-68. The Cowboys are putting up 71.7 points per game, but are hindered by allowing 75.0 ppg. They have allowed 70+ points in four consecutive contests and seven times total on the campaign. Myles Lewis (10.8 ppg) and Brendan Medley-Bacon (10.1 ppg) pace the attack, with four others pitching in at least 7.0 rebounds per contest.  Christian Shumate (6.5 rpg) and Medley-Bacon (6.2 rpg) are the top rebounders for the Cowboys, who are even on the year in the category (39.0 rpg, 39.0 orpg). Medley-Bacon (1.1 bpg) and Shumate (1.0 bpg) both block more than 1.0 shot per game, helping McNeese lead its league and place 92nd nationally with 4.0 blocks per contest. It also crashes the offensive glass hard with 13.2 offensive rebounds per game (second Southland/31st NCAA). The Cowboys hound opponents with pressure defense with 10.4 steals per game (second SLC/15th NCAA) and 17.3 turnovers forced per game (second SLC/17th NCAA). It has been hurt by 18.2 turnovers per game (348th NCAA). McNeese State University was founded in 1939, and it adopted its current name in 1970. Notable alumni include former MLB player Ben Broussard, winner of 2012 Pulitzer prize Adam Johnson and BP supervisor on the ill-fated oil rig Deepwater Horizon Donald Vidrine.


Keonte Kennedy erupted for a career-high tying 22 points (14 in the first half), Souley Boum poured in 26 (19 in second half), and the UTEP men’s basketball team guarded with a vigor to give high-flying New Mexico fits in a 77-69 win in front of 9,044 fans inside The Pit on Dec. 12.  The Miners opened up the second half on a 16-1 run to turn a three-point halftime lead (33-30) into an 18-point cushion (49-31), and the home side never got closer than eight the rest of the way. Starting PG Jamal Bieniemy missed the game with an injury. UTEP was also without the services of  Cam Clardy while swingman Jamari Sibley was limited to three minutes with an injury. The Lobos entered the contest averaging 82.5 points per game, but the Orange and Blue disrupted their rhythm to hold them 14 below their campaign’s average output. UTEP also forced 16 turnovers (10 in first half), which was five above UNM’s seasonal average. The Miners held UNM to 39.7 from the field while connecting on 43.1 percent. UTEP took good care of the ball (nine turnovers) and made 22-29 at the charity stripe, helped by Boum finishing 13-15. Jorell Saterfield (eight points), Tydus Verhoeven (six points) and Bonke Maring (five points) provided 19 points off the bench. Kennedy snared a team-high eight rebounds while Alfred Hollins netted five boards. Boum, Saterfield and Verhoeven each had four.


–  It marks UTEP’s first victory at the venue in nearly 13 years (73-60, 1/6/09).

–  UTEP used its eighth different starting line-up combination in nine games. Christian AgnewSouley Boum and Keonte Kennedy started as guards while Alfred Hollins and Kevin Kalu got the nods as fords.

–  UTEP trailed by a total of 16 seconds in the game and was up by as many as 18.

–  Christian Agnew matched his career high in both blocks (two) and assists (four).

–  Keonte Kennedy set personal bests for free throws made (four) and attempted (seven) while matching it for scoring (22).


UTEP has held six consecutive opponents to at least five points below their scoring average entering the contest. Overall the past six foes have been held a total of 66 points combined under the expected output, which works out to 11.0 fewer points per game by the opposition across the board. The defensive lock down started at Pacific (64 points scored, 69 ppg), followed by UCR (52 points scored, 70 ppg), FAMU (53 points scored, 70 ppg), NM State (72 points scored, 77 ppg), at No. 8 Kansas (78 points scored, 85 ppg). and most recently New Mexico (69 points, 83 ppg). Overall UTEP’s scoring defense is 63.9 (third C-USA/78th NCAA).


Jim Barnes erupted for 29 points and pulled down the third-most rebounds in program history (27) in a 91-66 rout of Centenary on Dec. 16, 1963. The Miners went on to finish the year at 25-3


UTEP pulled out a 73-64 road victory at Pacific on Nov. 19, 2021. As of all games played through Dec. 15, it remains the lone setback at home this year for the Tigers. They are 4-1 when defending their home court thus far in 2021-22.


Souley Boum (62), Keonte Kennedy (33) and Christian Agnew (13) all have scoring streaks of at least 10 games. Furthermore, Boum is at 19 contests for double-digit scoring efforts.


Last year the Miners used two starting line-ups with a total of six different players starting on the season. It’s been quite the difference in 2021-22 with eighth line-ups in nine games, and 10 different individuals earning a starting nod. That puts the Miner near the top of the list nationally for most starting line-up combinations according to a report compiled last week by the NCAA. Injuries and Covid-19 protocols have played a big factor in the mix and match this season.


UTEP has been flying to the offensive boards, pulling down 11.5 offensive rebounds per contest. That figure is good enough for fifth in the league and 113th in the country. Keonte Kennedy (16 total) and Tydus Verhoeven (16 total) share the lead, followed by 12 from Jamari Sibley and 11 by Alfred Hollins.


UTEP  eclipsed 70 in each of the first four contests for the first time in six years, which has helped it put up 69.1 points per game.  Guards Souley Boum (20.8 ppg) Jamal Bieniemy (14.5 ppg), and Keonte Kennedy (11.0 ppg) lead the way followed by swingman Jamari Sibley (7.0 ppg). The last time UTEP had a player account for at least 20.0 ppg was in 2008-19 (Stephon Jackson), something Boum is currently doing.


UTEP is one of 23 teams in the nation to be forcing at least 17.8 turnovers per game, which is aided by coming up with 9.0 steals per game (fourth C-USA/48th NCAA). Keonte Kennedy (2.2 spg-fourth C-USA/30thth NCAA) and Jamal Bieniemy (1.8 spg-ninth C-USA) have been the catalysts.


UTEP has caused 25+ turnovers twice on the year while committing 14 or less five times. Furthermore, the Miners have committed the same or fewer amount of turnovers compared to the opposition in seven of the nine games this year. The result is a +4.6 turnover margin (second C-USA/28th NCAA). UTEP is making 13.2 turnovers per game while forcing 17.8


UTEP is taking care of business at the charity stripe, connecting on 74.9 percentage at the line (second C-USA/58th NCAA). Souley Boum has gone 43-49 (87.8 percent), with three of those misses coming in his season debut at NM State on Nov. 13.


The Miners have shot better than 40 percent six times thus far in 2021-22. They head into Thursday’s outing at 40.7 percent on the floor. Jamari Sibley tops the team at 62.5 percent. (min. 15 FGA).


All five victories for UTEP have been by at least nine points, including four by double figures. Its three setbacks to unranked teams have been by a combined 21 points. The Miners lost by 26 at No. 8 Kansas.


Souley Boum has dealt with both a broken finger on his non-shooting hand (missed one game) and Covid-19 protocols (missed two games), but he continues to produce. He is pouring in 20.8 ppg (would be second in C-USA but short of qualifying total) and leads the Miners in free throws made (43) and attempted (49).


Jamal Bieniemy reached double figures in scoring in the first seven games of the season, eclipsing his prior effort of four that he achieved in nonconference play last year. That streak was halted when he had just 11 minutes of action at No. 8 Kansas due to an injury. Bieniemy then missed the UNM game as well last time out. He has led UTEP in scoring four times already this year after doing so a trio of occasions in 2020-21.


Jamari Sibley putting up 12.3 pointers per game and 5.3 rebounds per contest during the three games leading up to the New Mexico contest when he was limited to three minutes due to an illness. It was a marked improvement from his effort the first five contests of the campaign when he had 4.8 ppg and 3.0 rpg.


Keonte Kennedy is pulling down a team-best 6.3 rebounds per game, aided by pacing the team in rebounding in five of the nine games this season. He’s done most of it at the defensive end, with 41 of his 57 boards serving as defensive rebounds.


Souley Boum has a trio of 20+ point games this season and 29 in his career between San Fransisco and UTEP. Jamal Bieniemy surpassed 20 points three times in 24 contests a year ago, but he’s upped his game this year. He already has a pair of such efforts in 2021-22, including going off for 21 points in the 67-53 victory against FAMU on Nov. 24.


Souley Boum (started at San Francisco) is closing in on 1,000 points (987 points) in a UTEP uniform, and is on track to reach it as soon as Thursday’s contest barring a setback. Christian Agnew (started at North Alabama) is approaching 900 points for his collegiate career (865). Jamal Bieniemy (started at Oklahoma) is moving toward 700 career points (643) for his college career, including 314 at UTEP. He’s also past 300 assists (320) for his college career), including 114 helpers at UTEP. Alfred Hollins (started at Oregon State) has moved past career points (538) and surpassed 100 career games played (105). Tydus Verhoeven (started at Duquesne) is beyond 300 rebounds (321) for his collegiate career, with most at UTEP (213).


–  This is the 101st season of UTEP men’s basketball, with the Miners standing 5-4 in 2021-22. There are 17 home games (3-2 thus far) and 13 road contests (2-2 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).


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.


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 163-148 in his 11th season as a collegiate head coach, including 5-4 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.


First-year head coach Joe Golding (5-4 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.


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.


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).


Twelve of the 14 schools in the league are .500 or better, including UTEP at 4-4. Only Southern Miss (3-6) falls below the threshold.


UTEP entered 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 continues its three-game homestand when it participates in the 60th-anniversary edition of the WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational, with two contests in as many days. The Miners open the oldest collegiate holiday basketball tournament in the nation when they face NC Central at 7 p.m. MT on Tuesday (Dec. 21). They will face either Bradley or Sam Houston State on the ensuing day. Jon Teicher (41st year) and Steve Yellen (19th year) will be on the call, which can be followed on “The Home Of UTEP Basketball” 600 ESPN El Paso, the UTEP Miners App. It will also be streamed on Stadium. 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. For more information on the 2021 WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational please go to www.sunbowl.org.

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