UTEP to play UNM inside “The Pit” without guard Jamal Bieniemy

UTEP

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — It has been a tough stretch for UTEP on-and-off the floor over the past few weeks, and things just got tougher. The Miners will be without their starting point guard, Jamal Bieniemy, on Sunday against New Mexico at “The Pit” in Albuquerque.

Bieniemy, who is averaging 14.5 points per game this season, collided with teammate Kevin Kalu in the first half during Tuesday’s game against Kansas. Bieniemy exited the game immediately and did not return with an undisclosed injury. UTEP officials tell KTSM that he did not make the trip to New Mexico with the team, and there is not timeframe for his return.

“We’ve had a ton of adversity, and it’s been going on for about a month now,” said UTEP head coach Joe Golding. “Our team is going to get tougher. The guys who can survive it, they’ve got to be mentally tough to survive it, and we’ll be better for it in the long run.”

The Miners have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. New Mexico State beat them by three on a buzzer-beater, and the eighth ranked Jayhawks flexed their muscle in a 78-52 setback earlier this week in Kansas City.

“I think it’s important for us to come out and play hard. We need to show more effort on defense and get back to how we want to play defensively,” said UTEP junior guard Souley Boum. “The past couple of games we have let that slip, and if we do that, we’ll be going in the right direction.”

Playing more consistently on the offensive end of the floor is another area of concern for the Miners. To be without their second-leading scorer won’t help matters, but Golding believes his team is still finding their footing early in the season in his first year as the head coach.

“It’s about coming together as a team. It’s about finding that identity on the offensive side of the ball,” said Golding. “We have to have better ball movement and share the basketball. That’ll create better shots within our offense to score the ball better.”

The Lobos come into the game at 6-4 on the season, fresh off their win over Denver. New Mexico is 5-1 on their home floor this season, having just lost to in-state rival New Mexico State on a buzzer-beater in overtime on Monday.

Tip-off at “The Pit” in Albuquerque is at 1 p.m. MT. The game will be broadcasted on Stadium.

GAME NOTES (Via: UTEP Athletics)

OPENING TIP

The UTEP men’s basketball team (4-4) will wrap up a brutal stretch when it plays inside “The Pit” against New Mexico (6-4) at 1 p.m. MT Sunday. It is UTEP’s first day game of the season. The Miners have lost two straight, first on a shot with 1.6 seconds left against NM State, 72-69, on Dec. 3, and then most recently, 78-52, at No. 8/7 Kansas on Dec. 7. It will mark UTEP’s second straight road game before the Orange and Blue return home for three in a row to conclude nonconference play at home. NM State, KU and New Mexico currently have a combined record of 20-7 on the season, including 6-0 at home for KU and UNM. This is the only time in nonconference action that the Orange and Blue will have had consecutive road contests. That will occur four different occasions in C-USA play, including the opening week. New Mexico is 6-4 on the season, including 3-0 at home. They stand 18-3 in Albuquerque since 2019-20 (no home games in 2020-21 due to Covid-19 regulations in the state). Most recently it blasted Denver, 87-67, last time out on Dec. 9. Jon Teicher (41st year) and Steve Yellen (19th year) will be on the call for Sunday’s game, which can be followed on 600 ESPN El Paso and the UTEP Miners App. It will also be streamed on Stadium.

SERIES HISTORY: UNM LEADS, 78-67: LAST MEETING: AT UTEP 66, UNM 63 (11/19/2019)

New Mexico leads the all-time series, 78-67, including a 50-21 advantage when playing in Albuquerque (28-10 in the Pit). The series dates all the way back to the 1928-29 season, with the most-recent meeting being a 66-63 UTEP win on Nov. 19, 2019. The Miners and Lobos will be locking up for the fifth time in the past six years. It was interrupted last year due to Covid-19 affecting the campaign. UTEP and New Mexico have squared off more than any other opponent in Miner history aside from the Miners and NM State facing off. Joe Golding is 0-1 against UNM, coming in his time with ACU. Richard Pitino has never faced UTEP.

GET TO KNOW NEW MEXICO

New Mexico is 6-4 on the season, including most-recently dispatching Denver, 87-67, at home on Dec. 9. They opened the year at 4-1, went 1-3 the next four games, before getting back on track against Denver. They have already equaled last year’s win total. It should be noted that due to Covid-19 regulations in the state of New Mexico that the squad did not have any home games in 2020-21. The Lobos are under the direction of Richard Pitino, son of legendary coach Rick Pitino. He is in his first year at UNM and has an overall record of 166-141 in his 10th year as a head coach. UNM is led by the explosive starting back court of Jamal Mashburn, Jr., and Jaelen House, both of whom are the sons of former NBA standouts (Jamal Mashburn, Eddie House). Mashburn, Jr. (19.9) and House (17.7) combine for nearly 40.0 points per game, and five different players in total contribute at least 8.0 ppg. UNM is putting up 82.5 points per game to rank 29th in the country, but has been hurt by its scoring defense of 77.9 (323rd in the country). They get to the line early and often, with 182 free throws made (second in the nation) on 240 attempts (fourth in NCAA). The free-throw percentage of 75.8 is good enough for 46th in the country. They are also formidable in terms of blocked shots with 5.5 rejections per game (30th NCAA). The University of New Mexico, located in Albuquerque, is the largest state school in New Mexico. It was founded in 1899. Notable alumni include Gary Berntsen (Former CIA Senior Operations Officer), Antoine Predock (Renowned architect who designed Petco Park, and Brian Urlacher (former All-Pro LB for Chicago Bears).

GOING BACK IN TIME (AT NO. 8 KANSAS 78, UTEP 52, DEC. 7, 2021)

Souley Boum (18 points) and Keonte Kennedy (11 points) both hit double figures in scoring and UTEP (4-4) held No. 8/7 Kansas (7-1) to seven points below its scoring average in a 78-52 setback inside T-Mobile Center on Dec. 7. The Miners played the majority of the game without starting PG Jamal Bieniemy, who collided with Kevin Kalu as both hustled going for a loose ball midway through the first half.  KU carried a 42-21 advantage into the locker room but only had a 36-31 differential in the second stanza despite playing stars Ochai Agbari (23 points) and Christian Braun (20 points) all the way to the last media timeout in the game. UTEP had 14 turnovers compared to the 16 by the Jayhawks. The Miners also limited KU to 6-20 on 3-point tosses for a readout of 30.0 percent, more than six percentage points below their average.

TIP-INS FROM THE KU GAME

–   UTEP held KU without a field goal for a nearly eight minutes, spanning over the final 4:32 of the first half and first three minutes of the second half.

–   KU shot 30.0 from 3-point land, matching a Miner opponent season low.

–   The Miners limited the Jayhawks to seven points below their scoring average.

–   Souley Boum attempted a career-high tying 10 treys.

–   Kevin Kalu notched his second career steal.

–   Christian Agnew led the team in rebounding for the first time this year and third occasion of his career, pulling down a season-high seven boards.

–   For the first time this season, UTEP did not hold a lead at any point in the game.

–   The Miners played in front of a season-high crowd of 15,500 fans.

LOCK DOWN ON DEFENSE

UTEP has held five consecutive opponents to at least five points below their scoring average entering the contest. Overall the past five foes have been held a total of 52 points combined under the expected output, which works out to 10.4 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) and at No. 8 Kansas (78 points scored, 85 ppg). The next challenge is slowing down New Mexico, which is putting up 82.5 points per game to rate 29th in the nation.

ON THIS DATE IN UTEP HISTORY

UTEP defeated New Mexico, 68-53, in El Paso on Dec. 12, 1958, under then head coach George McCarty.

NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENT LOOKING BACK

UTEP pulled out a 73-64 road victory at Pacific on Nov. 19, 2021. As of all games played through Dec. 9, it remains the lone setback at home this year for the Tigers. They are 3-1 when defending their home court thus far in 2021-22.

SCORING STREAK

Souley Boum (61), Keonte Kennedy (32) and Christian Agnew (12) all have scoring streaks of at least 10 games. Furthermore, Boum is at 18 contests for double-digit scoring efforts.

MIX AND MATCH

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 seven line-ups in eight games, and 10 different individuals earning a starting nod. Injuries and Covid-19 protocols have played a big factor in the mix and match this season.

CRASH THAT GLASS

UTEP has been flying to the offensive boards, pulling down 11.9 offensive rebounds per contest. That figure is good enough for third in the league and 96th nationally. Keonte Kennedy (14 total) and Tydus Verhoeven (14 total) share the lead, followed by 12 from Jamari Sibley (12 total).

ALL ABOUT THOSE POINTS

UTEP  eclipsed 70 in each of the first four contests for the first time in six years, which has helped it put up 68.1 points per game.  Guards Souley Boum (19.8 ppg) Jamal Bieniemy (14.5 ppg), and Keonte Kennedy (9.6 ppg) lead the way followed by swingman Jamari Sibley (8.0 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.

TURN IT OVER

UTEP is one of 21 teams in the nation to be forcing at least 18.0 turnovers per game, which is aided by coming up with 9.5 steals per game (third C-USA/30th NCAA). Keonte Kennedy (2.1 spg-fourth C-USA/44th NCAA) has been the catalyst.

THAT’S A GOOD MARGIN

UTEP has caused 25+ turnovers twice on the year while committing 14 or less four times. Furthermore, the Miners have committed the same or fewer amount of turnovers compared to the opposition in six of the eight games this year. The result is a +4.2 turnover margin (third C-USA/39th NCAA). UTEP is making 13.8 turnovers per game while forcing 18.0.

KNOCK THINGS DOWN

The Miners have shot better than 40 percent five times thus far in 2021-22. They head into Sunday’s outing at 40.4 percent on the floor. Jamari Sibley tops the team at 62.5 percent. (min. 15 FGA).

WIN BIG

All four victories for UTEP have been by double figures while its three setbacks

to unranked teams have been by a combined 21 points. The Miners lost by 26 at No. 8 Kansas.

NOTHING STOPS SOULEY

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 19.8 ppg and leads the Miners in free throws made (30) and attempted (34).

JB’S WORLD

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 against KU last time out due to an injury. He has led UTEP in scoring four times already this year after doing so a trio of occasions in 2020-21.

SIBLEY STEPPING UP

Jamari Sibley is putting up 12.3 pointers per game and 5.3 rebounds per contest the past three games. It is a marked improvement from his effort the first five contests of the campaign when he had 4.8 ppg and 3.0 rpg.

KEONTE ON THE GLASS

Keonte Kennedy is pulling down a team-best 6.1 rebounds per game, aided by pacing the team in rebounding in four of the eight games this season. He’s done most of it at the defensive end, with 35 of his 49 boards serving as defensive rebounds.

TALKING 20+ POINT GAMES

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 has a pair this season and 28 in his career between San Fransisco and UTEP.

MILESTONE TRACKER

Souley Boum (started at San Francisco) is closing in on 1,000 points (961 points) in a UTEP uniform, and is on track to reach it in the next two or three games barring a setback. Christian Agnew (started at North Alabama) is approaching 900 points for his collegiate career (862). Jamal Bieniemy (started at Oklahoma) is past 300 assists (320) for his college career, including 114 helpers at UTEP. Alfred Hollins (started at Oregon State) has moved past career points (535) and surpassed 100 career games played (104). Tydus Verhoeven (started at Duquesne) is beyond 300 rebounds (317) for his collegiate career, with most at UTEP (209).

THE BASIC FACTS ON THE 2021-22 SEASON

–   This is the 101st season of UTEP men’s basketball, with the Miners sporting an all time record of 1426-1098 (4-3 in 2021-22). There are 17 home games (3-2 thus far) and 13 road contests (1-2 thus far) prior to the C-USA Championships (March 8-12, 2022).

–   The Miners returned four starters (Jamal Bieniemy, Souley Boum, Keonte Kennedy and Tydus Verhoeven) and eight lettermen overall. Other returning lettermen are Christian Agnew, Cam Clardy, Gilles Dekoninck and Ze’Rik Onyema. Emmanuel White, who redshirted, also came back.

–   UTEP has six newcomers: Kezza Giffa, Alfred Hollins, Kevin Kalu, Bonke Maring, Jorell 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 South Western 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 162-148 in his 11th season as a collegiate head coach, including 4-4 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.

LOOKING TO JOIN AN EXCLUSIVE GROUP

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

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 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.

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).

C-USA UPDATE

Thirteen 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.

LOOKING TO REGAIN WINNING WAYS IN C-USA

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.

UP NEXT

UTEP gets a little break before coming back to action at home against McNeese State at 7 p.m. on Thursday (Dec. 16.). The game will be one 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. 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.

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