UTEP Gets Overpowered in 66-53 Road Loss to Charlotte
First-year head coach Joe Golding called for consistency from his squad earlier this week at practice following the Miners' dominant 87-54 win against Southern Miss last Saturday.
The Miners, who have lost four of their last five, took a bit of a step back on Thursday in a 66-53 road loss to Charlotte.
UTEP, who was without guards Keonte Kennedy (foot injury) and Christian Agnew (COVID-19 protocols), fought hard in the first half and lost its edge in the second half.
"First of all, [Charlotte's] a really good offensive team. We lost every 50-50 ball today. Every 50-50 ball went their way tonight. That's what's the most disappointing thing tonight," Golding said. “We have to be gritty, have some fight to us.”
Point guard Jamal Bieniemy carried the squad offensively with a game-high 21 points, his fourth 20+ point scoring effort of the season. Bieniemy scored 17 of his 21 points in the opening half and cooled off in the second. He led the Miners on defense too by adding four steals.
Beyond Bieniemy, the Miners struggled to score efficiently all game. Guard Souley Boum scored 14 points, but was 3-of-15 from the floor. The All C-USA guard is struggling with his efficiency, averaging career lows in field goal percentage (33.3%) and 3-point field goal percentage (34.7%). Last year, Boum shot 38% from the floor and 39% from 3-point range.
Beyond Boum, UTEP had scoring contributions from the likes of Ze'Rik Onyema (six points, career high), Jorell Saterfield (five points, 2-of-7 FG) and Tydus Verhoeven (four points, 2-of-2 FG).
The Miners shot 34.5% from the floor (19-of-55) against the 49ers, including a rough 28.6% from beyond the arc (6-of-21).
Charlotte got off to an early lead in the first half, but the Miners used an 8-0 run near the end of the first half to rally back. UTEP trailed by just three points at the break, 32-29.
In the second half, the 49ers clamped down on a red-hot Bieniemy and forced the other Miners to beat them. Charlotte forced 16 turnovers on defense and scored 19 points off turnovers. In addition, they had five players score in double figures, led by Jahmir Young with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The Miner defense forced 17 turnovers of their own and held Charlotte in 3-point scoring (5-of-20).
Up next: UTEP (8-8, 1-3 C-USA) will face Old Dominion on Saturday, January 15. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. with Voice of the Miners Jon Teicher calling the action on 600 ESPN El Paso starting at 4:30 p.m. MinerTalk will follow the broadcast, presented by the Oscar Arrieta Agency.
“We’ve got a tough challenge (at ODU), but what a great opportunity for our guys to turn the page in 48 hours,” Golding said. “We (can) go out there and show some grit and toughness and take the fight to them.”