UTEP Dominates in 1st Round C-USA Tourney Matchup, Topping ODU 74-64
In a swift, resounding fashion, the Miners built a strong lead and never looked back en route to their round one win in the second round of the Conference USA Tournament, beating Old Dominion, 74-64.
It was the first win for UTEP in the C-USA Tournament since 2017.
Four different Miners scored in double figures as Souley Boum (21 points, six rebounds), Keonte Kennedy (17 points), Jamal Bieniemy (13 points, seven assists) and Tydus Verhoeven (12 points, nine rebounds, 2 blocks) combined for 63 total points.
"It's been a long time but we finally got one," said first year head coach Joe Golding. "With a lot of adversity [this year], our guys deserved this one tonight."
In the first half, the Miners built an early lead and never looked back. They raced off to a 12-4 start in the first four minutes, and built it to a 20-9 lead by the 10 minute mark. Defensively, they held Old Dominion to just 24% shooting from the floor in the first half and led 34-21 at the first half. On the other end, the Miners shot 48% and they were led by Boum's 13 points and Kennedy's eight.
In the second half, Golding was focused on protecting the lead and continued to build on their lead. UTEP led by as much as 19 points in the second half, despite ODU cutting the score to just a 10 point game to finish things. The Miners had no problems against the Monarchs, leading for 39:04, whereas their previous matchup was a back-and-forth overtime finish (78-70 UTEP).
Golding chose to start freshman Ze'Rik Onyema in this game to challenge ODU big Austin Trice. In his first career start, Onyema scored four points and grabbed four rebounds.
Up next: UTEP faces Middle Tennessee (22-9, 13-5 C-USA) in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament on Thursday, March 10. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m., with the Countdown to Tipoff Show starting at 6:30 on 600 ESPN El Paso. Per MTSU head coach Nick McDevitt, second-team all-conference honoree Josh Jefferson is questionable (undisclosed injury) to play tomorrow. Earlier this year, the Blue Raiders beat UTEP rather easily, 77-59. However, the Miners didn't have Kennedy is that matchup, while MTSU could be down one of their best players.
Winner of UTEP-MTSU will face the winner of UAB-FAU/USM.