EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The UTEP men’s basketball team is set for their biggest challenge to date. The Miners will play No. 13 Kansas in their first ever trip to Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence on Thursday, March 4. The matchup with the Jayhawks was a late addition to the Miners’ schedule ahead of next week’s Conference USA Tournament in Frisco.
Conference USA scheduled an open week before the tournament in order to give programs the chance to reschedule game. With UTEP unable to reschedule their games against FAU, UTEP head coach Rodney Terry felt it was important to play at least one before departing for Frisco.
“It’s a high level game and I’d like to think that when we get the chance to go up to Frisco that we’ll be in some high level game situations,” said Terry. “It keeps us at that high level and keeps us competing at that level, but you don’t go into any game not thinking that you’re going to try to win the game.”
UTEP (12-10, 8-8 Conference USA) has won four consecutive games after back-to-back sweeps against FIU and Charlotte respectively. During that span, the Miners have won by an average of 15.8 points and have only allowed 59.0 points per game.
“It’s definitely a big time opportunity for us going into the conference tournament,” said UTEP junior guard Jamal Bieniemy, who has experience playing at Allen Fieldhouse after transferring from Oklahoma. “It is a way to stay sharp and stay competitive. We want to keep our momentum going and keep playing hard.”
UTEP’s leading scorer, Souley Boum, is averaging 21.8 points in his last 10 games. Boum ranks third in the league in scoring (18.7 ppg) and ranks second in three-point field goal percentage (40.8). He leads Conference USA with 119 made free throws ranking sixth in free-throw percentage (81.5).
Bryson Williams is coming off his fourth double-double of the season after scoring 23 points and pulling down a career-high 14 rebounds in a ‘Senior Day’ win over Charlotte on Sunday. Williams has recorded nine double-doubles at UTEP and 13 in his collegiate career.
The Jayhawks average 73.5 points per game while allowing 66.0 points per contest (ranked third in the Big 12). KU ranks first in the Big 12 in field-goal percentage defense (40.5), three-point field-goal defense (32.1), total three-point field goals made (196), total assists (358), total blocks (109), and total rebounds (1,003). Kansas ranks sixth nationally in total rebounds.
Ochai Agbaji leads Kansas in scoring, averaging 13.5 points per game. David McCormack (13.2), Jalen Wilson (12.6), Christian Braun (10.3), and Marcus Garrett (10.2) all average in double-figures for the Jayhawks.
This will be UTEP’s first trip to Allen Fieldhouse in program history. The Miners are also scheduled to play at Kansas next season and have had an open dialogue with long-time Jayhawks head coach Bill Self since the season started.
“We’ve tried to work something out to try and play this past season and we just were never able to work out a date or something that was good for us,” said Terry. “We’ve been in talks with those guys since we’ve been here, to be honest, in terms of trying to play them. They’ve been very receptive and wanting to play, but for us, it just fit right.”
This will be UTEP’s first game against a ranked opponent since 2014 when the Miners hosted No. Arizona. Tip-off at Allen Fieldhouse against Kansas is slated for 6 p.m. MT. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+.
ALL-TIME SERIES NOTES
UTEP leads the all-time series against Kansas, 3-1. The Miners last played Kansas on Nov. 30, 2013 in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The No. 2 Jayhawks got by the Miners, 67-63, in the third-place game in the Bahamas. The Miners upset the No. 1 seeded Jayhawks, 66-60, on March 22, 1992 in Dayton, Ohio, to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The two programs first met on March 12, 1966 when Texas Western College edged out No. 4 Kansas, 81-80, in double overtime in Lubbock, Texas, during its championship title run. The Miners defeated the Jayhawks the very next season on Dec. 17, 1966 in Chicago, Ill.