ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands- The youthful UTEP women’s basketball team put up a good fight but couldn’t get enough shots to drop in a 61-40 setback against undefeated Big 12 member Kansas State in both team’s final game of the 2016 Paradise Jam Saturday afternoon.
Despite the loss, the Miners (1-5) can certainly take away some positives from the match-up with the Wildcats (6-0). UTEP held K-State, which entered the game with a +25.4 scoring margin (73.4-48.4), to a season-low 61 points. The Miners committed only 12 turnovers, kept things competitive on the boards (40-37, K-State) and enjoyed a 9-2 advantage in second-chance points.
Senior Sparkle Taylor (10 points, five boards) and freshmen Roeshonda Patterson (eight points) and Katarina Zec (seven points) keyed the efforts for UTEP, which used good ball movement and shot selection but unfortunately couldn’t get them to fall. The Miners, who have nine of 13 active players on the roster in their first year of playing games at the Division I level, finished at 23.4 percent (15-64) from the floor.
The Wildcats, who were paced by Breanna Lewis (21 points, eight rebounds) and Kindred Wesemann (19 points, four boards), shot 46.8 percent (22-47) from the field. UTEP did a good job to contest shots, though, in addition to forcing 17 turnovers.
“We played hard and I was proud of our team in terms of taking better care of the ball,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “We had 26 and 24 turnovers the past two games; our goal was to have 15 or less tonight and we had 12. We had more offensive rebounds (17-10) than they did. I thought we played hard but we just had a horrible shooting day.
“The thing we tonight is that we had good shot selection. We moved the ball, we passed the ball. We played as a team tonight and we played hard. We just didn’t shoot it well. K-State has a very good team. They do a nice job of really spreading the floor. Their size gave us some fits and they got some nice scores around the basket. We have to continue to play like we did tonight but just hit some more shots.”
Kansas State came out clicking on all cylinders, resulting in a 16-2 lead with 4:37 to play in the first quarter. UTEP refused to quit, however, tightening things up defensively to hold the high-octane Wildcat offense scoreless the remainder of the period. The Miners also started to find some rhythm offensively. Taylor sunk a pair of jump shots while sophomore Najala Howell buried a corner three ball to cut the deficit down to seven (16-9) through 10 minutes of action.
The Wildcats opened up the second quarter on a 12-2 run to secure a 28-11 advantage with 5:10 to play in the period. Zec showed good skill with a pull-up jumper that grazed the rim before dropping through to end the surge. After K-State extended its cushion to 19, the Orange and Blue used a triple from Zec and two Taylor free throws to account for five of the final seven points in the half to make it 33-18 K-State heading to the locker rooms.
The two sides traded baskets over the first several minutes of the third quarter before the Wildcats peeled off nine straight late in the stanza. The Miners stopped the run with an offensive rebound and putback by Lulu McKinney to beat the buzzer.
UTEP continued to compete down the stretch, playing the Wildcats even (12-12) for the final 10 minutes of action. K-State was even forced to keep its starters on the court until about three minutes remained in the contest.
The Miners will travel back to El Paso Sunday and begin their preparations to play host to Houston Baptist at 7:05 p.m. MST Wednesday.