UTEP Slams Western Illinois in 1st Round of The Basketball Classic, 80-54
Survive and advance—that's the motto for the UTEP men's basketball team in The Basketball Classic postseason tournament.
The Miners cruised to a swift 80-54 home beatdown against Western Illinois to advance to the second round of the postseason tournament. After the win, UTEP will play on Tuesday against an opponent to be determined among The Basketball Classic tournament field. Tickets are already on sale with $12 general admission tickets, $25 courtside seats at UTEPminers.com/tickets.
And everything went right for the Miners on Saturday afternoon in front of 3,500 spirited fans.
Souley Boum scored 20 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out 10 assists to become just the second Miner in program history with a triple-double (Jason Williams, 2006). Keonte Kennedy lifted the Miners with a monstrous stat line of 22 points and 15 rebounds. Other Miners that scored in double figures include Jamari Sibley (11 points), Tydus Verhoeven (10) and Alfred Hollins (10).
Point guard Jamal Bieniemy was inactive due to an injury. Golding said that he simply wanted to give the point guard some rest for today's game in anticipation for the next round. Bieniemy had been dealing with a nagging injury for more than a month and this was all precautionary.
“I’m proud of our guys, this was a player-driven decision to play postseason play,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “I supported them as long as they were 100 percent in, and I thought today they showed we were. We haven’t played in nine or 10 days and it was sloppy at times, but in the second half I thought our ball movement was as good as it’s been all season long.
The Miners got off to a great start, leading 11-0 through the first seven minutes. They held Western Illinois to missing their first 12 shots. UTEP simply never looked back, leading for the entire game and never relinquished the lead. The Miners went into the half with a seven-point lead, 36-27.
In the second half, the Miners built on their seven-point lead and turned it into a 26-point thrashing. The Leathernecks shot 35% from the field but failed to cut into UTEP's large lead. The Miners out-rebounded WIU 47-30 and UTEP also scored 32 points in the paint.
UTEP is now 20-13 overall and reached the 20-win milestone for the first time since the 2014-15 season under Tim Floyd. That is a huge accomplishment for first-year coach Joe Golding.
"We're setting the bar a little high," Golding said. "20 wins is hard to get, I don't care what program you're in. For our guys to get that opportunity—there were times we didn't think we'd get here."