Efe Odigie scored 19 points and pulled down 15 rebounds on his way to his sixth career double-double and Nigel Hawkins set career highs in points (21), rebounds (nine), made free throws (nine) and blocks (two), but it wasn’t enough as UTSA took care of UTEP, 75-60, in the Conference USA openers on Thursday night at the Convocation Center.
The Roadrunners (7-7, 1-0 C-USA) were dominant the whole contest as they raced out to a 13-0 lead to start the contest, while an 8-0 run to open the second half doomed the Miners (5-7, 0-1 C-USA). The Miners finally got on the board at the 15:41 mark on an Evan Gilyard free throw.
“I always tell the guys, whether we get off to a good start or bad start, you got to work the game because you really have to come out and set the tone defensively, and we didn’t do a very good job of that tonight to start the ball game,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “You can’t let a scoring team that really wants to shoot the basketball come out and get comfortable and let them do the things they want to do. They had us on our heals all night and we couldn’t get meaningful stops like we needed to.”
The Miners got within six points (17-11) after a made three-point bucket by Gilyard at the midway point of the first half and Odigie converted a tip-in after a missed shot to get UTEP within seven points (27-20) at the 5:52 mark. But the Roadrunners kept making shots and would take a 33-24 lead into the locker room.
UTEP could only get within 13 points on multiple occasions during the second half. The Roadrunners took 71 shots, making 29 of them (40.8 percent), while the Miners struggled from the field, shooting only 17-for-50 (34.0 percent). UTSA also outrebounded UTEP, 43-38, committed only 10 turnovers to the Miners’ 18.
The Miners connected on a season-high 82.8 percent (24-29) of their free throws, as Hawkins connected 9-of-11, Odigie went 7-for-8, and Gilyard, who scored 14 points, also went 7-of-8 from the charity stripe.
Odigie, however, continued his hot start to his collegiate career, now scoring in double figures in 12 consecutive games. The Houston native has accomplished something no other UTEP freshman has done to begin a career. The last Miner to score double figures in 12 consecutive games was Omega Harris back in 2016-17 when he did it in 16 straight contests.
Keaton Wallace led UTSA with 23 points, while C-USA’s leading scorer entering the game was held to 13 points, shooting 5-for-16 from the field. Atem Bior grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds and chipped in with eight points.
UTEP and UTSA will tangle again on Jan. 5, this time in the Haskins Center. The Miners will look to end a four-game losing skid to the Roadrunners on Saturday night. The 7 p.m. tipoff is the Miners’ annual “Noche Latina” game as UTEP will celebrate Hispanic culture and 500 fans will receive a “Vamos Mineros” t-shirt.