RUSTON, La. – Souley Boum recorded his first double-double (28 points, career-high tying 12 rebounds) of the season, and the UTEP men’s basketball team held high-flying LA Tech in check in a 63-60 victory at the Thomas Assembly Center Thursday evening.
It marks the Miners’ first win at LA Tech since 2004 and just the second all time. UTEP also moves to 6-5 on the year on the road, its most such triumphs since going 8-2 in 2013-14. The Orange and Blue (15-10, 8-5 C-USA) held the Bulldogs (18-7, 9-4 C-USA) to 33.9 percent from the floor and 15 points below their seasonal average. The Miners also took advantage of the Bulldogs finishing 17-31 at the charity stripe.
It was a closely-contested back-and-forth game with eight ties and 14 lead changes, including a 9-1 Miner run to turn a 52-49 deficit with 3:06 into a 58-53 advantage with 30 seconds to play. UTEP then did enough at the charity stripe down the stretch with clutch makes to hold on for the victory.
The triumph snaps a mini two-game skid, and also marks their seventh win in their past nine league games. Eight different Miners scored, led by Boum’s 28.
“I’m really proud, this team has been resilient all year,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “I thought we came out tonight and defended great. I’m just proud of this group up and down. Our whole gameplan was to get it to get it to the eight-minute mark and make some plays.
“It was just incredible fight by our guys,” Golding said. “Then we had some pressure free throws. They’ve got a good team, it was a great win for us. Credit to this team, we came in here and were resilient. I’m just proud of them.”
Alfred Hollins (seven points, seven rebounds) and Bonke Maring (five points, five rebounds) both provided a boost off the bench. Maring’s effort was especially impressive given he only logged nine minutes of action. Tydus Verhoeven pitched in nine points and five boards before fouling out.
UTEP got on the board first with a basket by Jamari Sibley before the home side countered with eight straight points. The Miners answered with a 5-0 push, courtesy of a score from Hollins down low and a Jamal Bieniemy corner trey to cut the deficit to one (8-7, 15:14 1H). After a free throw from LA Tech, Hollins scored again to pull UTEP even at nine.
That basket set off a sequence over the next several minutes in which every time the Bulldogs scored, the Miners answered. A transition trey by Boum off a find from Bieniemy reinstated a two-point edge for UTEP’s (17-15, 6:33 1H).
It was back-and-forth for the remainder of the stanza, with six lead changes over the final four minutes of action. The final was on a lay-up from Verhoeven, affording the Miners a one-point cushion (29-28) heading into halftime.
After LA Tech scored to start the second half, the Miners peeled off five in a row to lead by four (34-30). It came thanks to a nifty move in the post by Verhoeven and a Jorell Saterfield trey. The Bulldogs eventually evened the game at 36 (12:25 2H) before Boum sent the Orange and Blue back into the lead with the old-fashioned three-point play on the ensuing possession.
The Miner lead was four (41-37, 10:49 2H) after Hollins found Boum in transition for a breakaway score that was ruled good on a goaltending call, before LA Tech accounted for the next four points in the contest to bring it even.
UTEP went back out by four (45-41, 7:40 2H) with a lay-up by Boum and a Ze’Rik Onyema dunk off the feed from Boum. The Bulldogs struck back with seven straight points to put them ahead by three (48-45, 5:39 2H). Bieniemy ended that with a reverse lay-up, cutting the deficit to one.
LA Tech utilized three free throws over the next couple of minutes to grab a four-point advantage (53-49) before the 9-1 run for the Orange and Blue propelled them ahead for good.
UTEP will shoot for its second straight win when it continues the stretch of three games in five days on the road by locking up at Southern Miss at 11 a.m. MT/12 p.m. CT on Saturday (Feb. 19).