DENTON, Texas– UTEP shot 50 percent from the floor (28-56) while forcing 22 turnovers on the way to an exhilarating 75-67 road victory at North Texas late Sunday afternoon. The Miners (11-1, 2-0 C-USA) led for 31:11 of the action but that doesn’t accurately portray the effort required to down the Mean Green (6-6, 1-1 C-USA) and pick up their second win in three days.
Starr Breedlove set a career high for points (25) and rebounds (seven) while also grabbing four steals to give her a school-record-tying six straight contests with at least four thefts. She had plenty of support, though, with Lawna Kennedy coming off the bench to tally a career-high 13 points. Cameasha Turner (11 points), Jenzel Nash (11 points) and Sparkle Taylor (10 points) also hit double figures in scoring for the Orange and Blue.
There were three ties and eight lead changes, including three changes in the final five minutes of action. The momentum finally switched for good when the Miners deployed their patented full-court press. Trailing 61-60 with 2:43 to play, UTEP forced five turnovers down the stretch to help fuel a contest-closing 15-6 run.
Defense powered the surge, which started with six straight points to put UTEP up 66-61 with 2:16 left. UNT finally broke the press and two-and-a half minute scoreless drought with a lay-up from Kelsey Criner to trim the Miner lead to three (66-63), but it could get no closer.
Breedlove scored 11 points in the sequence for the Miners, who are off to a 2-0 start in C-USA for the fifth straight year.
“We went to a full-court press and that got us to be more aggressive and some steals and some easy baskets,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “The kids played hard. I’m really proud of how we played today. When our guards are playing great defense, it makes our team go. I’m really proud of our effort. It was a hard-fought game between two teams that really went at it. Our full-court press in the last four to five minutes was key. We executed better on offense and were more disciplined. North Texas has a good team. They made us earn it.”
Teadra Jones scored 19 points while Bria Frierson (13 points) and Candice Adams (12 points) also reached double figures in scoring to lead the way for the Mean Green. UNT shot a solid 45.3 percent (24-53) from the floor and outrebounded UTEP (35-32) but it was done in by the Miners’ pressure defense and depth.
UTEP’s reserves outscored the Mean Green back-ups, 16-6, while the Orange and Blue also had a 22-16 advantage in points off turnovers.
Both teams scored on their opening possessions before UTEP ripped off eight straight points to grab a 10-2 advantage at 7:21 of the first quarter. The battle-tested Mean Green squad, which boasts a road win over national powerhouse Oklahoma, fought back with five straight to make it 10-7. UTEP used its own 5-0 surge to help regain control, and its advantage was seven (21-14) through 10 minutes.
The Miners gradually extended their advantage to double figures (37-26, 2:40 second quarter) before UNT ripped off nine straight points to make it 37-35 with 33 seconds left. McKinney stopped the bleeding with a clutch jumper to make it a four-point game at the half (39-35)
The Mean Green unleashed an 11-2 run over the first five minutes of the third quarter to flip the script. UTEP stayed true to form, though, countering with a 14-5 surge to regain a four-point lead (55-51) heading to the fourth. It was back-and-forth in the final frame before the Miners finally took control for good.
UTEP will kick off a three-game homestand when it plays host to preseason C-USA favorite Middle Tennessee at 7:05 p.m. MST Thursday. The Miners will also lock up with UAB (5 p.m., Jan. 10) and UTSA (1 p.m., Jan. 17) during the stretch in the Sun City.
Additionally Coach Adams will have her third radio show of the year from 6-7 p.m. on Tuesday. It will be held at Mesa Street Bar and Grill (3800 North Mesa Street, Suite D1), with fans invited to join Coach Adams and host Steve Kaplowitz.
Author: UTEP Athletics