A career-high 32 points from Keiunna Walker lifted Louisiana Tech to a 77-60 win over UTEP on Thursday night in the Don Haskins Center.
The first half featured major swings in each direction, with the Miners (13-11, 5-9 Conference USA) having a 15-0 run that put them up 18-9 answered by 17 straight points for the Lady Techsters (15-9, 7-6 Conference USA) to flip the lead right back the other way.
For LA Tech, Walker wasted little time starting her big night, pouring in 10 first quarter points as the Lady Techsters jumped out to a 22-18 lead. She would score 10 in the first, four in the second, nine in the third and nine in the fourth.
Mahri Petree provided a major spark for UTEP in her second start of the campaign, scoring 10 of her season-high 13 points in the first half. She drilled a pair of 3-pointers and went 4-of-5 from the field over the first 20 minutes. For the game, Petree hauled down six rebounds.
“I wanted to come out on and give my team energy right from the rip, and when I focus on doing that, it gets me going too,” Petree said.
Trailing 32-28 at the break, the Miners came out of the locker room strong, tallying five straight points to go ahead 33-32 with 9:16 remaining in the third.
That would be the final time that UTEP would hold the lead for the game however, as a hot stretch featuring eight unanswered points in the third broke open a 54-42 LA Tech advantage late in the quarter. Walker started the rally with back-to-back baskets to spark the visitors to a lead that would grow to 22 at one point in the fourth.
For the game, Brenda Fontana did not miss from the field for the Miners, going 4-of-4 with 10 points and three rebounds. Teal Battle equaled a career best with three steals and Katia Gallegos posted a season-high nine assists.
Each side was effective from the floor, with LA Tech shooting 27-of-53 (50.9 percent) and UTEP 22-of-46 (47.8 percent). The Miners assisted on 17 of their 22 made shots.
Turnovers plagued both teams on Thursday, with the Miners forcing the Lady Techsters into 24 and UTEP committing a season-high 33. A 34-16 edge in points off turnovers for LA Tech proved to be the difference in the game.
“It’s hard to win any game when you have that many turnovers – I’d say virtually impossible,” UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker said. “I hurt for our fans because they deserve better. Our players deserve better. We have to play better. We are not going to play the victim and talk about who wasn’t here and who is hurt – we are not going to do that. With the players that were on the floor tonight, we were plenty good enough to win, we just didn’t.”
UTEP hosts Southern Miss to finish off the home portion of the regular season schedule on Saturday, Feb. 19 at 12 p.m. MT.
The game can be heard on the UTEP Miners app with Mando Medina calling the action. The contest will also be covered live on C-USA TV.