Fueled by big scoring nights from Jenzel Nash (career-high 26 points) and Cameasha Turner (season-high tying 20 points) and a tremendous team effort at the free-throw line and on defense, the UTEP women’s basketball team knocked off preseason Conference USA favorite Middle Tennessee, 84-73, at the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening.
The Miners (12-1, 3-0 C-USA) bolted out to a nine-point lead (25-16) after one quarter of play and never looked back on the way to picking up a wire-to-wire win against a talented Blue Raider (7-6, 1-1 C-USA) squad. The margin was 15 (40-25) at the break and MT was never able to get closer than five the rest of the way.
The Orange and Blue, who have received votes in four straight top-25 polls, are off to a 3-0 start in league play for the first time since 2012 and fourth occasion in program history. They shot a solid 41.0 percent (25-61) from the floor-while holding the visitors to 35.7 percent (20-56).
UTEP absolutely cashed in at the free-throw line. The 33 (out of 37) free throws made tied as the fifth most in program history. The Miners got after it on the glass (42-34), in addition to holding the Blue Raiders to 35.7 percent (20-56) from the floor. Lawna Kennedy joined Nash and Turner in double figures with 10 points.
“I’m really proud of the team. We executed the game plan and hit our free throws as well. We worked hard studying Middle Tennessee and planning strategy. We put together a good scheme, the kids performed it. They followed the plan. Winning the boards was key; Middle Tennessee rebounds the ball so well.”
Lulu McKinney (nine points), Sparkle Taylor (seven points, seven rebounds) and Tamara Seda (three points, seven boards) made big contributions off the bench. Their efforts helped the Orange and Blue outscore the MT reserves, 21-16. UTEP got its fast-break game going (14-2) advantage and had a big cushion in points off turnovers (19-8) as well.
Turner, whose 20 points match her season high, was officially cooking. She nailed 6-9 from the floor while finishing 7-7 at the charity stripe. Middle Tennessee had no answer for Nash either. She drilled 8-17 shots and was 10-11 on her free-throw attempts.
Her biggest bucket of the night, an old-fashioned three-point play, came in crunch time. With Middle Tennessee in the midst of a 12-2 run to cut a 15-point Miner lead down to five (63-58, 5:54 4Q), Nash sliced through the defense for an acrobatic lay-up that sparked a game-closing 19-9 surge.
UTEP will not have long to rest on its laurels, as a quality UAB squad invades El Paso for a nationally-televised contest (Fox Sports) at 5 p.m. MST Sunday. Tickets for the game are only $5 for adults and $3 for kids and may be purchased by calling 915-747-5234.
Author: UTEP Athletics