UTEP women’s basketball (14-6, 11-4 C-USA) fell behind early in the first half and could never fully overcome the deficit as the Miners fell to Florida Atlantic (7-8, 5-6 C-USA), 67-62, on Sunday in front of 555 fans at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso.
“I haven’t been a part of many games where we have a comeback like that where we don’t win, but you have to give FAU a lot of credit,” head coach Kevin Baker said. “You have to give Iggy Allen a lot of credit tonight. Anybody who has 28 points and 17 rebounds – that is why they won, because of her play tonight. I don’t want to take anything away from FAU because they beat us fair and square and had a great game plan, but this is probably the worst we have played in six weeks. We were due for this. I wish we would have played better, but we didn’t. When you play like that, you don’t deserve to win and we didn’t today.”
It was a wire-to-wire victory for the visiting Owls, who led by as many as 17 at one in the second quarter following a 12-0 scoring run. The Miners rallied in the second half and fought back to tie the game twice in the fourth quarter, but never managed to grab the lead. The loss snapped UTEP’s nine-game winning streak that dated back to Jan. 16.
The Miners shot 37.3 percent (25-of-67) from the field in the loss, but UTEP was just 4-of-19 (21.1 pct.) from three and shot under 50 percent from the free-throw line (8-of-17).
Three different Miners reached double figures in the loss, led by Katia Gallegos who had 19 points (8-20 FG), five rebounds, four assists and four steals. For the second straight game, senior Michelle Pruitt posted a double-double with 15 points and a team-high 11 rebounds, while Avery Crouse scored 11 and added five rebounds.
In the first, Florida Atlantic took advantage of a poor shooting performance by the Miners, who were 4-of-17 (23.5 pct.) from the field over the first 10 minutes, including 0-for-6 from three-point range. FAU countered by shooting 40 percent to open the game for a 17-11 lead after one quarter of play.
UTEP opened the second quarter by cutting the lead to five following a pair of field goals by Pruitt and Gallegos, but FAU once again answered with a 13-0 run to force the Miners to call a timeout with 7:23 left in the half. From there, UTEP outscored the Owls, 17-10, to enter halftime down 40-32.
The Miners continued to claw their way back in the third when Gallegos opened the half with a three-pointer to make it a five-point game. Midway through the quarter, both teams were trading shots until Isis Lopes drew the And-1 to once again cut the deficit to five. The Miners followed up with a trio of layups by Tia Bradshaw, Pruitt and Crouse to end the quarter down, 50-48.
Gallegos wasted no time in the fourth, tying the game for the first time at 50-50 to open the period. Both teams continued to trade shots, knotting the game for a second time at 55-55 on a Pruitt layup midway through the quarter. That would be the closest the Miners came to victory all day, with FAU outscoring UTEP, 12-7, the rest of the way to clinch the five-point road victory.
FAU out-rebounded the Miners, 42-35, in the game, while 41 of its 67 points came off three-pointers and free throws. The Owls were 22-of-58 (37.9 pct.) from the field and 9-of-22 (40.9 pct.) from beyond the arc.
Four different players reached double figures for FAU with Iggy Allen leading the Owls with 28 points and 17 rebounds. Allie Tylka added 13 points, while Rita Pleskevich and Alexa Zaph had 11 points apiece for the Owls.
Up next, UTEP will close out the series versus Florida Atlantic on Monday, February 22 at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso. The series finale is set for 7 p.m. MT on Monday.
The game between UTEP and FAU will be streamed on CUSA.TV for subscribers, while fans can also tune in to the radio broadcast with Tim Hagerty calling all the action on the UTEP Miners app. The contest can also be heard on ESPN 600 El Paso.
For complete coverage of UTEP Women’s Basketball, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPWBB (Twitter), @utepwbb (Instagram) and on Facebook or click here to visit the official home of UTEP Athletics.
Gallery by Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post