EL PASO, Texas – Souley Boum (19 points), Jamari Sibley (career-high 18 points) and Jamal Bieniemy (11 points) all reached double figures in scoring but the Aggies’ Jabari Rice spun home a three pointer with 1.6 left to let NM State (6-2) slip past UTEP (4-3), 72-69, at the Don Haskins Center Friday.
Bieniemy drew iron on a half court heave on the ensuing possession to cap a wild back-and-forth affair that featured seven ties and 10 lead changes.
The Miners rallied back from down seven with four minutes to play to pull ahead by one (66-65) with 1:59 left but it proved the last UTEP lead. The Orange and Blue won the boards (32-27) and scored in key sequences, but couldn’t get enough stops as the Aggies shot 56.6 percent for the game.
UTEP made 41.7 percent from the field and committed only 10 turnovers
“We kept fighting, kept competing” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “We weren’t as efficient as we wanted to be, but the bottom line is we couldn’t get enough stops. They’ve got a good team. It was a good college basketball game. Both teams competed and got after it.”
The two teams traded scores early, with Tydus Verhoeven setting up Bieniemy for a lay-up to afford the Miners a 5-4 edge at 17:40 of the opening frame. NM State countered with 11 straight points over five and a half minutes. It was halted by an offensive rebound and putback from Sibley.
It was a nine-point differential (16-7) before UTEP began to chip away. The Miners reeled off a 9-2 push, capped by a wide-open triple from Kennedy. The Aggies eventually extended the differential back to seven (25-18) but four straight free throws – including two after a technical foul – made it a one-possession game.
It was a back-and-forth affair, particularly late in the half when four straight trips combined resulted in possession changes before the visitors clung to a 32-30 advantage at the locker room.
NM State led by two (34-32) 40 seconds into the second half before UTEP peeled off seven straight points. Boum and Sibley teamed up for all seven of the points to vault the Orange and Blue ahead by five (39-34) before a lay-up at the other end halted the sequence.
The Miners inched it back out five on three separate occasions, but the Aggies continued to fight back on the way to regaining the lead by six (55-49) with 6:52 to play in regulation. Alfred Hollins halted the 8-0 run with an old-fashioned 3-point play, but NM State struck back to put UTEP down seven (59-52) with 5:37 left.
It remained a seven-point differential (63-56) before the Orange and Blue made their move. It started with two technical foul free throws from Boum. UTEP then retained possession and Bieniemy went bang with a try to suddenly whittle the differential to two. After a Miner defensive stop UTEP took its final lead of the night on a triple from Sibley.
UTEP continues a difficult stretch by playing at No. 8 (AP poll)/No. 7 (coaches’ poll) Kansas at 6 p.m. MT on Tuesday (Dec. 7). Jon Teicher (41st year) will be on the call, which can be followed on “The Home Of UTEP Basketball” the UTEP Miners App. It will also be streamed on ESPN+.
“Kansas is one of the best college basketball teams in the country,” Golding said. “They’ve got a hall of fame coach and NBA players It’s another opportunity for us to get better.”