FILE PHOTO: “Kind of how the game went today was that we lost it in the first 10 minutes,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “For whatever reason we weren’t ready to play in the first quarter… | Photo courtesy Michael Reese/UTEP Athletics
BOCA RATON, Fl.- Tamara Seda tallied 18 points to lead a trio of Miners in double figures but a sluggish start to the contest proved costly in an eventual 72-66 setback at Florida Atlantic Sunday afternoon.
The Miners (10-5, 1-1 C-USA) dug themselves an early 14-point deficit (18-4, 2:30 first quarter), which forced them to play catch-up with the Owls (8-5, 2-0 C-USA) the rest of the way. UTEP trimmed the deficit to five (31-26) with 1:39 to play the first half but the Owls hit two of their nine 3-pointers in the contest to secure an 11-point (37-26) halftime lead.
UTEP managed to get within eight (51-43) heading to the final frame but a strong start to the fourth quarter afforded the Owls a 17-point lead (64-47) with six minutes left. The Miners continued to battle down the stretch and scored the final nine points of the contest as part of a 13-2 run but it was too little too late.
UTEP actually shot a higher percentage (24-61, 39.3%) than the Owls (25-67, 37.3%) but the home side compensated for that through hitting five more triples (FAU 9-30; UTEP 3-19) and winning the boards (44-38). Another factor was FAU holding significant advantages in both second-chance points (21-6) and points off turnovers (24-10).
Najala Howell (14 points) and Faith Cook (11 points) joined Seda in double figures for scoring while Katarina Zec added nine. Tyana Robinson (19 points) and Danneal Ford (15 points) led the charge for Florida Atlantic, which never trailed in the game.
“Kind of how the game went today was that we lost it in the first 10 minutes,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “For whatever reason we weren’t ready to play in the first quarter. We were not ready to match their energy, and they deserved to win. We fought back and made it respectable because our team is bunch of fighters and that’s what they do. I’m proud of them for that but the fact of the matter is that this is college basketball in Conference USA and if you’re not ready to play on the road in the first quarter you really don’t deserve to win this game or any other.”
It was a slow start offensively for both teams with FAU holding a 4-2 edge almost five minutes into the contest. The Owls got things going, though, with a 14-2 run over the next several minutes putting the Miners in a 14-point hole (18-4) with 2:30 to play in the period. UTEP settled down momentarily with six straight points-all from post scores- to get within single digits (18-10) with 23 seconds to play in the period. The Owls used a free throw and a putback off a missed charity stripe toss to regain a double-digit lead (21-10) through 10 minutes of action.
It remained an 11-point contest (28-17) with 5:42 left in the second quarter before the Miners received a transition lay-up from Roeshonda Patterson and a corner triple by Howell to whittle the deficit down to six (28-22) and force a timeout by FAU. An offensive rebound and putback by Seda eventually brought UTEP within five (31-26) with 1:39 left in the half, but the home side had a response. It came in the form of consecutive triples to close the period on a 6-0 push and secure a 37-26 lead at the break.
The Miners went back to work at chipping away at the deficit, once again inching to within six points (47-41) with 1:20 to play. FAU pushed it back out to double figures before carrying the aforementioned eight-point cushion (51-43) to the final frame. But as was the case throughout the tilt, the Owls made the plays when needed. This time it was a 13-4 surge over the first four minutes of the frame to essentially seal UTEP’s fate. That didn’t stop the visitors from continuing to fight in the waning minutes of action but there was too much ground to make up.
UTEP will return to action when it tips off a three-game homestand against Charlotte at 1 p.m. MST Thursday. It will mark the first home contest since Dec. 2. The game will be streamed live on the beIN Sports app, and a TV tape-delay airing will take place after men’s hoops programming that evening. It will also be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso with Steve Kaplowitz and Traci Miller on the call.