NORFOLK, Va.- Sparkle Taylor continued her blistering play offensively with a 27-point outburst while Tamara Seda (13 points) and Lulu McKinney (10 points) also reached double figures in scoring but it wasn’t enough in a 87-68 setback at Old Dominion Thursday evening.
Jennie Simms poured in 30 points to go along with seven assists to lead the charge for the Lady Monarchs (16-12, 11-6). ODU also received big games from Destinee Young (14 points, 14 rebounds) and Ashley Jackson (12 points, six rebounds).
The silver lining is that despite the loss, thanks to FIU and Marshall both losing, the Miners (8-21, 5-12 C-USA) locked up a bid to the 2017 C-USA Championships presented by MetroPCS (March 8-11). UTEP will be seeded 11th at the league’s pinnacle event, but it would certainly like to pick up some momentum with a good result at Charlotte at 5 p.m. MST/7 p.m. EST Saturday.
UTEP took good care of the basketball (13 turnovers) while forcing 17 giveaways that led to 18 points, kept it competitive on the glass (ODU, 38-33) and shot 39.4 percent (28-71) but the home side compensated for all that with a tremendous shooting night. The Lady Monarchs nailed 60.7 percent (37-61) from the field, including 76.9 percent (10-13) in the third quarter and 66.7 percent (10-15) in the final frame.
It was a back-and-forth affair early on, with the Lady Monarchs leading by four (12-8) with 4:34 to play in the opening frame. That changed, though, with a long triple by Simms and a jumper from Jackson igniting a 5-0 run to put the Miners down nine (17-8, 3:39 first quarter). UTEP struck back with consecutive scores, both by Seda, to get within five (17-12, 2:55first quarter) only to have the home side score the final six points of the frame.
ODU slowly but surely pushed its advantage to 14 (34-20, 5:35 second quarter) before the Miners started to come alive. They struck back with a 12-3 surge to claw back within five (37-32, 1:30 second quarter), with four different UTEP players scoring in the sequence. Seda and McKinney got things going with lay-ups before Simms knocked down a jumper.
McKinney and Roeshonda Patterson each hit triples to sandwich a free throw by Young. Zuzanna Puc came up with a steal and the outlet pass went to Cook, who sank the jumper to cap the surge. ODU stopped the bleeding with a lay-up late in the frame, which allowed it to enter the locker room armed with a seven-point advantage (39-32).
UTEP looked to keep things going in the third quarter but unfortunately ODU simply had too much firepower on offense. The Lady Monarchs scored eight straight points in the blink of an eye to put UTEP in a 15-point hole (51-36, 6:04 third quarter). The Miners continued to battle the rest of the way, but could get no closer than 10 down throughout the remainder of the tilt.
The Miners will look to bounce back while also building some momentum for the C-USA Championships presented by MetroPCS when they play at Charlotte at 5 p.m. MST/7 p.m. EST Saturday. Fans can listen live to Brandon Cohn’s call on 600 ESPN El Paso while also watching online at ESPN3 (subscription required).