The UTEP women’s basketball team took a step in the right direction by trouncing Houston Baptist, 75-45, at the Don Haskins Center Wednesday evening.
The Miners (2-5) received a huge lift from their veteran players to handle the Huskies (1-5) in dominant fashion. UTEP never trailed in the contest and led by double figures the majority of the second half.
Junior Tamara Seda came off the bench to post a monstrous double-double (career-high 18 points and career-high 15 rebounds) while senior Sparkle Taylor poured in 21 points to go along with six boards. Junior Lulu McKinney dished out a career-best 10 assists while also scoring seven points.
Freshman Katarina Zec also hit double figures in scoring (10 points) while fellow classmate Rachel Tapps was credited with a career-high four assists while spelling McKinney at the point. Najala Howell finished with eight points (8-8 on free throws) to nearly join Taylor, Seda and Zec in double figures.
“We learned a valuable lesson about passing the ball and shot selection in the Virgin Islands,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “I thought it was a great team win. It was a good night on both sides of the ball. We really needed this. We just got to keep working and keep practicing.”
UTEP piled up 24 assists on 26 field goals made. UTEP took great care of the ball (12 turnovers), forced 24, won the boards (49-44) and held HBU to a paltry 25.0 percent (16-64). UTEP connected on 38.8 percent (26-67) from the field, which was aided by a sizzling 60 percent (9-15) effort during the second quarter.
Junior-college transfer Axelle Bernard showed off her full repertoire of abilities, setting career highs for blocks (seven-tied fourth UTEP single-game records) and assists (four) and matching it for rebounds (seven). Bernard’s block party helped propel the Miners to 12 total swats (tied third UTEP single-game records).
HBU was led by 10 points by Taylor Kollmorgen while Heidi Byrd finished with nine.
UTEP raced out to an early 6-1 lead before extending it to a 15-6 cushion with a minute to play in the first quarter. HBU regrouped, peeling off five straight points to get within four (15-11) through 10 minutes of action. The Huskies continued their surge into the second frame, eventually battling back to forge the game’s first and only tie (19-19) with 7:45 to play in the period.
UTEP didn’t panic, but slowly but surely regained control. The Miners used a 7-0 surge late in the stretch to convert a four-point lead (29-25) into their initial double-digit advantage (36-25, 1:51) of the contest.
The Miners scored five straight to put HBU in a 16-point deficit (43-27, 6:12) midway through the third quarter. The Huskies struck back with eight straight points to get back within eight (43-35, 4:37 3Q) but UTEP had an answer. The Miners closed the period on an 11-0 run to effectively put away HBU for good.
The visitors never got closer than 16 the rest of the way out, with UTEP taking good care of the basketball while also excelling at the free-throw line to close things out in style.
UTEP will now turn its attention to the practice court and the classroom with finals week looming. UTEP will return to the court in a game setting when it ventures up I-25 to play at New Mexico at 2 p.m. MST on Dec. 11.