Photo courtesy UTEP Athletics
FRISCO, Texas – The UTEP women’s basketball team (17-8) fell to No. 1-seed Middle Tennessee (16-7) by a score of 74-58 in the semifinals of the 2021 Conference USA Basketball Championships on Friday at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
“We just didn’t have our A-game today,” head coach Kevin Baker said. “I can’t explain it and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. This is a good team with a lot of character. I thought we would have played a little bit better today, but unfortunately, we didn’t. I feel bad about that as a coach. It is my job to get them better prepared, and I will learn from this and get better as well. I think this is going to be a great learning opportunity for our team and maybe we can come back and win it next year.”
Destiny Thurman scored a career-high 16 points (7-12 FG) to lead the Miners offensively, while DejaNae Roebuck also reached double figures with 10 points on the night.
Roebuck also added six rebounds, while Michelle Pruitt tied her career high with 13 rebounds to go along with nine points in the loss. Katia Gallegos finished the game with seven points, seven assists and four rebounds.
Middle Tennessee ended the first quarter with a six-point lead thanks to a 50 percent (8-16) shooting performance, but the Blue Raiders improved even more in the second frame, shooting 61.5 percent (8-13 FG) to take a 15-point lead over the Miners into halftime.
UTEP came out of the break to go 7-of-14 from the field in the third, but Middle Tennessee continued to keep the Miners at arm’s length, outscoring UTEP in the quarter for a 61-42 entering the fourth.
The Miners outscored Middle Tennessee, 16-13, in the fourth quarter, but the early deficit could not be erased completely as the Blue Raiders closed out the game to advance to the finals of the 2021 C-USA Basketball Championships.
The Miners shot 41 percent (25-of-61) from the floor in the semifinal matchup, while UTEP was 4-of-20 (20 pct.) from three-point range. The Miners shot 33.3 percent from the free-throw line (4-of-12).
Middle Tennessee was 27-of-59 (45.8 pct.) from the field and 10-of-26 (38.5 pct.) from beyond the arc. The Blue Raiders shot 10-of-12 (83.3 pct.) from the free-throw line. MT was led by Anastasia Hayes, the 2021 Conference USA Player of the Year, who led all scorers with 23 points and grabbed two rebounds and seven assists.
Middle Tennessee had four players in total reach double figures in the game, while the Blue Raiders also had 21 fast break points in the game compared to 11 by the Miners. Seventeen of MT’s 21 fast-break points came in the first half alone.