Men’s basketball gets its first sweep of the year

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Courtesy of UTEP/ Ruben Ramirez

UTEP junior guard Christian Agnew drives hard to the basket versus Florida International drawing a foul Feb. 13.

The UTEP Miners (10-10, 6-8) won both games over the Florida International University(FIU) Panthers  (9-14, 2-12) this weekend with a 75-59 Friday night and a 77-68 win Saturday. 

In game one, the Miners started off strong on offense racing out to a 6-2 lead after back-to-back 3-point shots from junior guard Souley Boum and redshirt sophomore guard Keonte Kennedy.  

Moments later, FIU cut the lead down to 12-10 after a 3-point shot from junior guard Isaiah Banks. The Panthers went on a 10-2 run and forced three turnovers to take an 18-14 lead over the Miners. Junior reserve guard Christian Agnew got UTEP within one after a lay-up to make it 18-17. 

Agnew and redshirt sophomore Kristian Sjolund would get the Miners scoring rolling as the team took a 28-21 lead at the 9:00 mark in the first half. The Miners continued to find their offensive rhythm as continuing an 11-0 scoring run with UTEP leading 31-21 at the eight-minute mark of the first half. 

Sjolund continued his hot shooting as he drained another 3-point and would go 3-of-3 from beyond the arc after that shot to give the Miners a 34-24 lead at the five-minute markBefore the half, junior guard Jamal Bieniemy knocked down a 3-point shot to give the Miners a 41-29 lead. The Miners closed out the half with a 41-32 lead. 

At the start of the second half, junior guard Eric Lovett of FIU knocked down a 3-point shot to bring the lead down to 41-35. Boum responded with a 3-point shot of his own to put the Miners at a 44-35 lead. 

UTEP later exploded to take a 52-37 lead keyed by holding FIU scoreless for five minutes. From this point on, the Panthers would get no closer than 13 points as the Miners prevailed in a dominating fashion 75-59. 

We challenged the guys to come out with unbelievable energy, activity and great communication,” said UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry. “You have to have that in playing against a high-possession team that will really push the ball in transition and communicates getting back with guys. I thought we came out with really good energy on both ends of the floor.” 

Boum led all Miners in scoring once again with  22 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field and  5-of-7 from the 3-point lineAgnew scored 12 points while shooting 3-of-6 from the field and Kennedy had 17 points while shooting 7-of-10 from the field and shooting 2-of-4 from the 3-point line. 

As a team, the Miners shot 49%from the field goal and  50% from the 3-point line. Defensively, the Miners held FIU to 43% shooting and forced 16 turnovers for the night. 

In the second matchup of the weekend, the Panthers came with more intensity, especially early in the game. Leading for the entire first half of the contest, the Panthers scored the first 6 points of the game as the Miners went scoreless for the first five minutes of the opening half. 

The Miners shot a poor 33% for the first half, along with 10 costly turnovers that kept the team from getting into a scoring rhythm. Four 3-pointers in the half were a significant reason the Miners were able to stay in the game early, along with a still solid defense that kept the Panthers only shooting 43% for the half. At the half, the Miners trailed 37-30. 

For the first eight minutes of the second half, FIU maintained an eight-point lead over the Miners keyed by six Miner turnovers. These would be the last turnovers of the night for the Miners. Over the last 12 minutes of the game, the Miners, who struggled taking care of the ball all night with 17 in the first 28 minutes, played mistake-free basketball. UTEP also was able to force FIU into the bonus at around the same point to put extra pressure on the Panther defense. 

Over the next three minutes, the Miners went on an 11-point run to take its first lead of the night with eight minutes left in the game off a 3-pointer by Bieniemy. Panther guard Eric Lovett responded with back-to-back 3 pointers to give FIU the lead 54-51 with 7:38 remaining in the game. 

The Miners then took control of the game, drawing fouls that would lead to multiple scoring opportunities at the free-throw line. Over the next two minutes, the Miners shut down the Panthers’ shooters and went to the foul line for eight straight points giving the team a 59-54 lead. 

UTEP would score 18 points in the final eight minutes off 20 free throw attempts due to getting the Panthers in the bonus so early in the half. The Miners went on to a 77-68 victory over the Panthers to secure the sweep. 

We didn’t play great in the first half,” Terry said. “We had 11 turnovers; that was a big part of that. I thought we came out in the second half and put it on our defense. We’re going to have to guard and work the game and I thought our guys did that. We did a much better job attacking and advancing the ball up the floor.”
 

Neither team shot very well on the night, with UTEP shooting 40% and FIU shooting 41% overall. The game’s real difference was the Miners’ ability to get to the free-throw line, with UTEP getting there 39 times on the night. This is the most times the Miners have made it to the foul line since the season opener three seasons ago versus the University of Texas at Permian Basin. 

Boum made a living at the free-throw line with 15 made shots on 17 attempts. On the night, Boum led the team with 27 points, five assists and three steals while playing the whole game. Agnew came off the bench to have another strong game with 17 points while shooting 8-10 from the free-throw line. 

UTEP goes on the road to take on the Florida Atlantic Owls (8-9, 3-5) next weekend in Miami for a back-to-back series.  

Michael Cuviello and Danny Lopez may be reached at [email protected]