UTEP Beats UC Irvine 67-61, Wins First Sun Bowl Invitational in Five Years
Through a back-and-forth championship game, UTEP was able to prevail over UC Irvine, 67-61, winning the 58th Annual WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational for the first time in five years.
The 8-1 start is the best start to a Miners season since the 2003-04 season.
Forward Bryson Williams, who was named Tournament MVP, totaled 22 points against the Anteaters, including 11-of-14 made free throws. His performance in the championship round followed his 21 point, 11 board performance in the first round against North Carolina A&T.
Guard Jordan Lathon received the Don Hakskins award in the tournament and dazzled in the title game. Lathon shrugged off an ankle injury in the first half, stormed out in the second and finished with 13 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals. Fellow guard Souley Boum also was named on the All-Tournament team following a 26 point performance against NC A&T and 11 points against UC Irvine.
Some well deserved hardware for the Miners.
“We did a great job of attacking the paint and putting pressure on the basket. When you do those kinds of things, it gives itself an opportunity to go to the foul line,” second-year head coach Rodney Terry said. “We got to the line 36 times and we did a pretty good job shooting free throws tonight, making 28 of those. That was a big part of the game.”
UTEP didn't shoot particularly well, making 33.3 percent from the floor (17-of-51) and were dominated off the glass (44-27). But their 23 points off 22 turnovers swayed the game in UTEP's favor, along with their season-best 28 made free throws.
“I echo to my guys all year long on being a great defensive team,” Terry said. “With defense, you can win games with defense at home and defense traveling. We don’t know how we’re going to shoot whether we’re at home or on the road, but we know that defense travels. We know if we want to be an elite defensive team, we can win every game throughout the course of the year.”
Next up, the Miners will face Houston (6-3, 4-2 at home) on Thursday, Dec. 19 with a 6 p.m. MT tipoff.