Adversity continues to find ways into the UTEP locker room, like a bed bug you can't get rid of. This time, it was food poisoning that hit the Miner locker room.

Despite the roadblock, UTEP pulled off a 70-61 win over NC Central in the first round of the West Star Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Wednesday night.

Seven players for the Miners dealt with food poisoning, per head coach Joe Golding. Four players didn't suit out—Tydus Verhoeven, Ze'Rik Onyema, Cam Clardy and Souley Boum, who attempted to undergo pregame warmups and then didn't return out of the locker room for the entire game. Alfred Hollins was on the bench but never saw minutes, dealing with the bug. Keonte Kennedy and Christian Agnew managed to play over 32 minutes each while dealing with food poisoning.

In fact, Kennedy and Agnew were difference makers in Tuesday's win. Kennedy poured in a career-high 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting while Agnew came off the bench to score a season-high 16 points and snag five rebounds. Jorell Saterfield (13 points) also contributed in double-figures scoring.

The Miners did regain point guard Jamal Bieneimy, who finished with eight points and four assists.

“I’m proud of our guys,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “NC Central has a really good team, they are a really well coached, run really good stuff and they came in with three wins in a row. We were a little short-handed tonight, but it was incredible guts by our team. We just found a way to win a basketball game, so I’m extremely proud of their effort.”

The Miners allowed the Eagles to shoot 50% from the floor and 56% from 3-point range. Yet, they forced 13 turnovers on defense and scored 13 points off the mistakes.

Now, UTEP will head into the title game of the tournament for the 46th time in program history. They are seeking the program's 33rd tournament title as they face a tough Bradley squad (6-6) that recently thrashed Sam Houston State (87-61). Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. tomorrow and pregame is slated at 6:30 on 600 ESPN El Paso.




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