The Return of Efe Odigie Sparks UTEP Men’s Basketball
UTEP destruction of Charlotte this past weekend marked the second time in the last three weeks that the Miners had swept their C-USA opponents. Unlike FIU, the Miners had huge leads against the 49ers in both home games and they were able to empty out the bench. Blowing out Charlotte on consecutive days was a pleasant surprise for Miners fans but the return of Efe Odigie was an even bigger shock.
The 6'9 junior from Houston had not played for the Miners since January 15th against North Texas, and it was only the fifth time that the power forward has played against C-USA competition. Odigie had suffered a concussion against the Mean Green, and his recovery to the practice court took more than a month. Although there was plenty of speculation if Efe was still on the team because of his long absence, UTEP head coach Rodney Terry maintained in his media calls that his big man was still recovering from the concussion. Sure enough, #32 was back on the floor at the Don Haskins Center and he immediately made his presence known.
Odigie scored 15 points in 20 minutes on Saturday and he followed that up with another 12 points in 16 minutes yesterday afternoon. He also grabbed nine rebounds in both games combined and he did not turn the ball over once. Not a bad stat line for someone who had not played a game in six weeks.
When you look at the UTEP's low post game, it starts and ends with Bryson Williams. Tydus Verhoeven has not demonstrated the ability to score that Miners coaches preached in the preseason. Enter Odigie. If there is one thing he can do that Verhoeven cannot it is finish under the basket. He also has a nice jumper and he is always extremely efficient in his shooting. Simply put, Odigie adds an element offensively that UTEP has lacked all season. He still struggles at times on the defensive end, but the offensive tradeoff still favors the Miners. In fact, Odigie's stat line per 40 minutes of play this season (19.6 points) is actually better than Williams (19.1). Similarly, Odigie averages 28.1 points per 100 possessions, meaning he is one of UTEP's most efficient scorers when he gets an opportunity.
As Coach Terry prepares for his toughest test of the season Thursday against Kansas and then the C-USA Tournament next week in Frisco, he has a healthy roster for the first time in a while. Hopefully, Odigie's return can continue to spark the team as they prepare for the home stretch of their season.