For a UTEP team that prides itself on defensive intensity, the Miners came out on fire from the scoring category on Friday night.

A trio of Miners scored 20 or more points, as they out-dualed Rice 101-89 for their second consecutive win.

UTEP (6-3, 2-1 C-USA) saw Bryson Williams drop a season-high 29 points; watched Jamal Bieniemy score a career-best 24 and dish six assists; and witnessed a 20-point performance by Keonte Kennedy (career-best)—all while shooting 54% (38-of-70) and 43% from beyond the arc (12-of-28).

“Coming into this game, we knew we had to guard hard and get some stops,” third-year head coach Rodney Terry said. “The thing we said all year long, if we’re able to get stops and get out and play fast, we’re a handful to deal with when we’re in transition.”


However, UTEP allowed the Owls to shoot 57% from the floor, including 44% from the perimeter. The difference came in turnovers and shot attempts. Rice shot the ball 53 times, compared to UTEP who recorded 70 attempts. The Miner defense was able to force 11 turnovers, which resulted in 26 points, while UTEP's offense coughed the ball up just four times.

The first half was a scoring frenzy.

Bieniemy and Boum got the scoring started, each hitting 3-pointers at the beginning of this one. Keonte Kennedy saw scoring early on, draining a pair of 3's en route to a 10 point, four assist first half. The Miners scored on their first eight possessions to lead 21-9 at the 14:55 mark.

The Owls quickly woke up and went on a 14-0 run of their own, taking the lead for the first time. During this stretch, Rice shot 67% FG (12-for-18) and led 32-30 with 6:38 left in the half.

The guard play was a big reason the Miners went on another scoring stretch to close out the half. By seeing Bieniemy (18 points) and Williams (15) combine for 33 points, along with Kennedy's 10, six points apiece from Verhoeven and Boum, the Miners took a 55-44 lead at the break. UTEP was exceptional from beyond the arc in the first half, hitting 10-for-16 (63%), while allowing the Owls to shoot 59% from the floor (16-for-27).

Rice went on a 7-0 run to start the second half, cutting the UTEP lead to five points (62-57) at the 15:17 point. They inched closer to UTEP during that stretch, turning it to a one-score lead (65-62) in the first seven minutes.

But UTEP fired off a 13-0 run and had a lead by as much as 16 in the second half. Though the Owls cut it to a single-digit lead late in the game (87-80), Bieniemy was able to hit a dagger 3-pointer that gave UTEP a 90-80 lead with 4:18 to go. UTEP never looked back and closed the game, 101-89.

Friday night was the first game where fans could attend the contest. The announced crowd totaled 459.

Up next: UTEP will play its second game against Rice on Saturday, Jan. 9. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso.

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