UTEP (12-5, 9-3 C-USA) came from behind late in the fourth quarter and won its seventh straight game with a 68-64 overtime win over UAB (7-9, 2-8 C-USA) on Saturday afternoon in front of 263 fans at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso.
“I was really impressed with our team down the stretch because [UAB] had the momentum for most of the game,” head coach Kevin Baker said. “They controlled the tempo and controlled us much better than yesterday. The resiliency to kind of win a basketball game in a very ugly way, we just had to figure out a way to get it. I was really proud of our defense the entire game, but really in the fourth quarter and in overtime, I thought we did a tremendous job. We played our man, but also played our matchup in some crucial times, and that is not easy to do. Our team is really learning how to guard and learning how to get stops at big times. I am really proud of this group. It is tough to win any game in college basketball, but it is sure tough to win seven in a row, so I am proud of this team for being able to do that.”
The Miners entered the fourth quarter with a two-point lead, but UAB quickly erased the deficit with an 8-0 run to grab a 51-45 lead. The Blazers held onto a slim lead until Katia Gallegos tied the game at 56-56 with one minute left in regulation. Avery Crouse extended UTEP’s lead to two with a pair of free throws, but the lead was erased after UAB was fouled on a three-pointer for a four-point play.
Down by two with eight seconds left, Michelle Pruitt came through with the game-tying field goal on the pass from Gallegos to knot the game at 60 and force overtime.
UAB began the overtime period by missing back-to-back three’s, but eventually converted on a layup to go up by two. Gallegos followed up with a layup of her own to make it a 62-62 game. The Blazers drew a personal foul on the next possession and went ahead by two, but Gallegos once again came through for the Miners with a jumper in the paint to tie the game at 64.
From there, the Miners forced a UAB turnover and grabbed multiple offensive rebounds before drawing a foul, sending Pruitt to the line to convert a pair of free throws for a 66-64 UTEP lead. The Blazers missed a potential game-tying field goal with 11 seconds left before eventually fouling Gallegos, who went on to make a pair of free throws with 0.9 seconds to ice the game.
The victory extended UTEP’s winning streak to seven games, which ties for the eighth longest win streak in program history. It marks the longest win streak for the program since winning seven straight games during the 2015-16 season.
The Miners were led by Gallegos and Pruitt, who each tallied 18 points in the win. The 18 by Pruitt to go along with a team-high 13 rebounds marks new career-highs for the senior, while 13 of Gallegos’ 18 points came in the second half and overtime.
Isis Lopes added nine points (3-of-4 3FG), while Destiny Thurman had seven points in the win. Avery Crouse had six points and nine rebounds, while Gallegos added seven rebounds and five assists in addition to her 18 points.
UTEP’s bench came through for the Miners once again, scoring 34 points compared to six by the Blazers. The Miners also scored 28 points in the paint and forced 14 turnovers in the overtime victory.
Overall, the Miners shot 34.8 percent from the floor (24-of-69) and 23.5 percent from three-point range (4-of-17). On the other end of the court, the Blazers shot 21-of-56 (37.5 pct.) from the field and 10-of-26 from behind the arc.
For the second straight night, UAB’s Margaret Whitley was the game’s leading scorer with 23 points, while Lindsey Dullard had 15 points and a team-high 11 rebounds for the Blazers.
Next up, UTEP hits the road to face off against FIU on February 12-13 in Miami. Friday’s game is set to tip off at 5 p.m. MT and can be seen on CUSA.TV for subscribers. The weekend finale is set for 12 p.m. MT on Saturday, February 13 on ESPN+ (subscribers only).
Fans can also tune in to the radio broadcast with Tim Hagerty calling all the action on the UTEP Miners app. Saturday’s game 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