EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Souley Boum scored a game-high 21 points, while adding eight rebounds and three assists, but Western Kentucky (17-8, 10-3 Conference USA) hit big shot after big shot down the stretch, sending UTEP (13-13, 4-9 C-USA) to its fourth consecutive loss, 67-62, on Thursday night at the Don Haskins Center.
“We felt like our defense had a chance to win this game for us tonight and we had to play with urgency from start to finish,” UTEP head coach Rodney Terry said. “I thought we did a fairly decent job with urgency, but early on, part of our defensive problems were transition defense. [WKU] really pushed the ball in transition. I thought we had good effort, but we have to finish out games and finish out possessions, especially on the defensive part of the floor. We got to keep working and buy-in to the defensive part for 40 minutes.”
Boum completed a three-point play after making a free throw and getting the Miners within a point (57-56) at the 3:34 mark, but Jordan Rawls made his only three-point shot of the game that put WKU up four points (60-56) with 2:41 remaining in the game.
Bryson Williams got the Miners within three points (61-58) after connecting on a layup off of one of Jordan Lathon’s five assists, but Taveion Hollingsworth, who led WKU with 18 points, answered with a three-point play that put his squad up 64-58 with just over a minute to play. Hollingsworth scored WKU’s last seven points and came up with another big basket with 31 seconds remaining to go up six points.
It was another ‘off’ night for Williams, who tallied a season-high four assists, tying his collegiate career-high. He added 13 points with eight rebounds and two steals.
“I’m very disappointed in the way I’ve been shooting the ball recently,” Williams said. “I have to get back in the lab and keep working on it. That’s all you really can do.”
Daryl Edwards chipped in with 10 points. It was the first time in 11 games that a trio of Miners hit double figures. Lathon led the Miners in assists, steals (three) and blocked shots (two). Anthony Tarke made his first start since Jan. 2, contributing with five rebounds, two points and a pair of assists in 14 minutes of action. Tydus Verhoeven, matching his season-high with four points, recorded two rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal. Deon Stroud played 13 minutes, scoring six points with two emphatic dunks.
“Everyone on our team has had opportunities,” Terry said. “The thing we have is we have a good measuring stick of what we have moving forward and what we have to get to get to the level we want to get to in terms of recruiting.”
WKU had four players in double digits led by Hollingsworth. Jared Savage (14 points), Carson Williams (13) and Camron Justice (11) were the other three Hilltoppers to top double figures. Savage led the way with nine rebounds.
UTEP’s loss drops them into a three-way tie for the final spot in next month’s Conference USA Tournament with Southern Miss and Rice.
UTEP will host Marshall on Saturday, Feb. 15. The Miners and Thundering Herd will tip-off at 2 p.m. ‘Bonus Play’ schedules will be announced by Conference USA on Sunday.