UTEP Basketball Prepares for Texas Road Swing at Rice & UNT
The UTEP men's basketball team will take its five-game win streak with them on the road to face Rice (Saturday) and North Texas (Monday) over the weekend.
The Miners entered the week in fifth place (13-8, 6-3 C-USA) in the league after their recent surge. They will be put to the test in this upcoming stretch, seeing five of its next six games away from the Don Haskins Center.
In fact, the squad is searching for its first six-game win streak since 2016. On the road, UTEP is 4-4 (2-2 in C-USA), most recently coming off an overtime win at Old Dominion (78-70).
Saturday's matchup can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso starting at 12:30 p.m., with Voice of the Miners Jon Teicher calling the action. Following the game, Sal Montes and I will have MinerTalk, presented by the Oscar Arrieta Agency.
Monday's game will tip-off at 6 p.m. with a 5:30 pregame show. The UTEP-UNT game was rescheduled from Thursday to Monday due to inclement weather in the DFW area.
Bringing the Boum
Earlier in the week, All C-USA guard Souley Boum was awarded the conference player of the week honor for his standout performances against both Florida schools last week. Boum combined to score 60 points over the two wins against Florida Atlantic (28 points) and Florida International (32 points).
The Oakland native went through a bit of a shooting slump in the early part of January, but seems to have settled into a groove. His shooting splits are a lot better than earlier in the season: 37.9%/36.7%/86.8%. He is now above his career average shooting splits and he's been one of the best all-round players for the squad during the five-game win streak.
Two other areas of the game that has also improved include defense and passing the ball. Boum continues to be one of the more reliable backcourt defenders for the Miners. He has nine steals in the five wins for UTEP, including a season-best six steals against ODU. Coach Joe Golding has experimented with Boum at the point guard through different stretches, allowing Jamal Bieniemy to play a little off-ball. Boum is averaging 3.2 assists per game through the past five contests.
Verhoeven steps up down low
UTEP is 8-0 all-time when Tydus Verhoeven scores in double figures. That has to be one of the most interesting stats I've read all season.
Like Boum, Verhoeven had two strong outings last week, where he combined for 26 points, four steals and two blocks. The forward from California does a lot of the dirty work for the squad and he does things that don't necessarily show up in the stat sheet. He's the team leader in blocked shots (1.3 per game, 8th in C-USA) and total offensive rebounds (31). He's shooting 50.6% from the floor this year.
Of course, the Miners rely on Verhoeven mostly as their rim protector. He is relied upon by the team to guard the opposing team's best big. He did a solid job against the FAU and FIU forwards. Now, he will go up against an experienced forward at Rice in Max Fiedler and face a trio of solid bigs at North Texas.
First look at the Owls
UTEP leads the all-time series against Rice, 28-14. They split the series last year. Rice (13-8, 6-4 C-USA) is on a two-game win streak and has won four of its last six. They are currently 4-1 this year at home.
Keep an eye out for Carl Pierre (15.3 ppg) and Travis Evee (14.6 ppg) who lead them in scoring. They score 76.5 points as an offense, which is the third most in C-USA. Fiedler is another major contributor on the squad, averaging 9.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
Guarding the perimeter will be key for UTEP, as Rice makes 9.6 3-pointers per game (2nd in C-USA). Another huge point of emphasis for the Miners will be to crash the glass against the Owls, who bring experience to the glass.