HUNTINGTON, W. VA – A valiant comeback bid by UTEP fell short in a 79-64 loss at Marshall Thursday evening.
The Miners (18-2, 9-1 C-USA) trailed by as many as 24 (46-24) with 8:58 to play in the third quarter before unleashing a 22-4 run to pull all the way back to within four (50-46) late the stanza.
To their credit the Thundering Herd (15-6, 5-5 C-USA) weathered the storm, answering the UTEP surge with one of their own (11-2) midway through the fourth quarter to reinstate a double-digit advantage (69-55) with 5:43 remaining in regulation. UTEP showed good character in refusing to quit but it could get no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
The setback is the first in C-USA and just the second on the year for the Miners, who had their 10-game winning streak in the process halted.
“You have to tip your hat to Marshall,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “They played extremely well tonight. They just outplayed us and we struggled. We made a good effort to try to get back in it but it’s a 40-minute game. We dug ourselves too deep and all night long Marshall felt too comfortable offensively.”
Jenzel Nash recorded her first career double-double (14 points, 12 rebounds) while Sparkle Taylor came off the bench to tally 17 points. Lulu McKinney added 10 from the pine as well while Starr Breedlove and Cameasha Turner each finished with eight points.
But enough shots wouldn’t fall, with the Miners finishing at 30.8 percent (30.8) from the floor. Marshall, which hit 48.3 percent (29-60) of its shots, was paced by 26 points and 11 rebounds from Leah Scott. She was joined in double figures by Talequia Hamilton (15 points), Shayna Gore (14 points) and Kiana Evans (12 points).
Rebounding was also a factor, with the Thundering Herd winning the boards by a count of 50-42.
The two sides traded baskets earlier in the game, and UTEP led 8-6 with 5:55 remaining in the opening quarter. Marshall began to assert itself, though, scoring 16 of the next 18 points to burst into the lead. Scott was the catalyst in the sequence, tallying eight of the points that afforded the home side a 22-10 advantage with 58 seconds to play in the first quarter.
The Orange and Blue tried to regroup in the second quarter but it wasn’t in the cards. After UTEP got the deficit down to eight (27-19, 5:59 second quarter), Marshall struck back with 14 consecutive points. McKinney nailed a long triple late in the stanza to make it a 19-point game (41-22) at the half.
UTEP battled hard in the third quarter, and had Marshall on its heels for a good chunk of the stanza. But unfortunately the deficit was too big to overcome and Marshall was able to hang on for the win to improve to 11-2 at home this year.
The Miners will look to put the setback in the rearview mirror when they play at (RV) Western Kentucky at 1 p.m. MT/2 p.m. CT Saturday. It will be a nationally-televised contest (Fox College Sports). Fans will also be able to listen live to Tim Hagerty on the call for ESPN El Paso, 600 KROD-AM Radio.