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Miners win home opener against UTPB

Claudia Hernandez
UTEP Miners men’s basketball Coach Rodney Terry on his first game of the season against UTPB on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

The Rodney Terry era at UTEP got off to a great start thanks to a commanding second-half performance that led to a UTEP men’s basketball victory over UT Permian Basin, 90-63, Tuesday night at the Don Haskins Center.

“I was pleased with our effort in the second half, I didn’t think we had the same kind of intensity and effort defensively in the first half,” said first-year head coach Rodney Terry.

In the first half, the Miners opened up to a 12-to-four lead early, but it wasn’t until senior Paul Thomas committed his second foul in the first half that the UT Permian Basin Falcons started to chip at the lead. UTEP and UTPB would go on to exchange buckets till the Falcons tied the game with 2:41 on the clock when they nailed a pair of free throws. UTEP went to the half with a four-point lead, 38-34.

The lead changed one time, while the game was tied a total of five times in the first half. UTEP struggled from behind the arc shooting four-of-12 for 33 percent. What kept the Falcons in the game was their ability to get the Miners in early foul trouble. They shot 66 percent from the charity stripe going 10-for-15.

In the second half, UTEP came out with intensity and clamped down on the Falcons. UTEP held UTPB to 10-of-34- from the field while creating eight turnovers. Sophomore guard Evan Gilyard, who had eight points in the first half, exploding from behind the arc. Gilyard shot five-for-seven from the three-point line. Gilyard would score 24 points to lead all Miners in scoring.

“Basically I just locked in, I should’ve done it from the jump, Gilyard said. “I locked in on defense and let my defense carry to my offense and just locked in and made the shots when I was open.”

UTEP would outscore UTPB 52 to 29 in the second half. Thomas who struggled with foul trouble in the first half, got the Miners fans at the Don Haskins Center on their feet early in the second half when he drove down the lane for a monstrous dunk. That play seemed to give UTEP life as it would set the tone for a strong second half. Thomas would score five of his 10 points in the second half in 16 minutes.

“I saw the lane and went up and did it, I kind of wanted to get myself going, get the team going it was like a dull moment in the game, we were lacking energy and it just happened heat of the moment,” Thomas said.

UTEP had five players score in double digits, in addition to Thomas and Gilyard, freshmen forward Efe Odigie had 23 points, fellow freshmen forward Kaosi Ezeagu had 10 points and sophomore forward Gilles Dekoninck added 14 points off the bench.

“The hardest thing is to guard a team that has multiple scorers, and guys that on any given night you could have a guy be the leading scorer, and those are the kind of teams that I like coaching, those are the kind of teams that I like to put out on the floor,” Terry said. “You have to have a balanced scoring attack.”

Terry’s freshmen frontcourt duo of Odigie and Ezeagu combined for 18 of the Miners 42 rebounds, each big had nine rebounds apiece. In the first half, Terry seemed to use Odigie for his offensive game down low, while utilizing Ezeagu’s length and size in the paint defensively. Ezeagu would finish the game with two of UTEP’s six blocks.

“They’re learning, and they’re going to be developing right in front of your eyes, but we want to have a two-headed monster with those two guys coming in and out of there,” Terry said.  

The lone senior, Thomas acknowledged how well the new guys have been improving so far in the young season.

“I think they’re getting better with every game every practice that we’ve had especially our bigs, Efe (Odigie), and Kaosi (Ezeagu), we rely on them a lot defensively and offensively, I’m pleased with their progress and our guards too,” Thomas said.

UTEP will be on the road for their next game as they head to Las Cruces for the FirstLight Credit Battle of I-10 when they face New Mexico State Friday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m.

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Miners win home opener against UTPB