The top team in Conference USA wanted to make a statement on Thursday.

UAB (11-3) thrashed a short-handed UTEP squad, 75-62, in Bartow arena. The Miners (7-6) are set to host LA Tech next week following the postponed game against Middle Tennessee.

Simply put, the Blazers are built to win now and want to rule Conference USA under second-year head coach Andy Kennedy. UTEP is trying to lay the foundation under first-year head coach Joe Golding, who was thrown out in the first half after receiving two technical fouls when he argued a call.

In the first half, the Blazers went on a 21-2 run over nearly six minutes to distance themselves against the Miners. UAB guard Michael Ertel scored 14 points in the first half, including a trio of 3-pointers.

The Miners briefly led 10-8 with 13:45 left in the first half. There were five lead changes in the first half, but the Blazers led for 15:13 in the first half. UAB shot 51% from the floor and 38% from 3-point range in the first half.

Jorell Saterfield led the Miners in the first half with 11 points, which is his fourth straight game in double figures. He ended the game with 15 points.

Out of halftime, UTEP found some fight in them and put together a quick 6-0 run at the 11:44 point. They were trailing by 12 (55-43), but it wasn’t enough to mount a huge comeback against the league’s best team in UAB. The Blazers went on a 6-0 run at the 7:41 mark and wouldn’t let the Miners inch back into the game.

Souley Boum led the team with 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting, along with 7 rebounds. Senior Tydus Verhoeven also chipped in with 7 rebounds and 6 points, while point guard Jamal Bieniemy had 8 points and 8 assists.

UTEP shot 38% from the floor and 40% from 3-point land in the game. They had 13 turnovers on the night and UAB scored 16 points off the Miners’ miscues. UAB out-rebounded the Miners, 36-32.

UAB was led by Ertel with 25 points, along with Tavin Logan with 14 and Jordan Walker with 11.

Miners lose Keonte Kennedy in foreseeable future 

Besides the loss in the C-USA opener, the Miners came in this one undermanned yet again. This time, it was second-leading scorer Keonte Kennedy. The 6-foot-5 wing is averaging 13.3 points per game and leads the team in rebounding (5.9 rpg) and steals (2.1 spg). He had scored 20 or more points in three straight games for the Miners.

Coach Golding said in the pregame show that Kennedy is out with a foot injury and is out indefinitely. Apparently Kennedy suffered the injury in the final two minutes of the Bradley loss in the championship game of the West Star Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational.

Golding mentioned Jamari Sibley as a player who can possibly fill in the role that Kennedy has on the team. Those are quite the shoes to fill. Sibley finished Thursday’s game with 4 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks in 25 minutes for the Miners.