UTEP turned up the defensive pressure by holding Florida Atlantic to 31.5 percent shooting and forcing 23 turnovers on the way to a convincing 75-47 wire-to-wire victory at the Don Haskins Center Saturday afternoon.
The Miners (21-2, 12-1 C-USA) improve to 14-0 in El Paso on the season, equaling the longest unbeaten home streak in program history while also maintaining their top spot in Conference USA. UTEP pounced on the Owls (11-13, 3-10 C-USA) early, tallying 12 of the game’s first 14 points to secure a double-digit cushion less than four minutes in.
FAU battled back to get within three (22-19) early in the second quarter but UTEP ripped off a 15-2 run over the next eight minutes. Eight FAU giveaways helped power the sequence. UTEP tallied the first 16 points of the third quarter to effectively put the game out of reach. The advantage swelled to as many as 32 (71-39, 5:11 4Q) before a mini push late by the visitors.
“Today was a really big win for us,” head coach Keitha Adams said. “They’re a dangerous team to play because they really shoot the three and have shooters. You really have to be on your toes defensively against this team. I thought the second quarter we had a great defensive spurt. I’m proud of our team, and it’s a good win.”
The Orange and Blue converted the Owls’ 23 giveaways into 33 points while also controlling the boards (46-36). Another big factor was UTEP’s defense of the three-point shot. FAU, which entered the game fifth nationally for three pointers/game, managed to make just 4-23 (17.4 percent) from distance.
Starr Breedlove set the tone on the defensive end with a career-high seven steals (tied seventh most UTEP history), all of which came in the first half. She added 10 points and four assists in an efficient 23 minutes of action. Jenzel Nash (16 points, 6-9 FG, 3-3 FT) and Sparkle Taylor (12 points, 2-5 FG, 8-10 FT) also hit double figures for scoring while Cameasha Turner added nine points.
Adams, who celebrated her birthday in style, did a masterful job in distributing the minutes across the roster. All 14 Miners dressed earned at least six minutes of playing time. Eleven logged 10+ minutes, but no one had more than 23. Lawna Kennedy scored seven points during the opening surge while Rudiane Eduardo added six points and three caroms.Daeshianna McCants grabbed a team-high seven boards while Chrishauna Parker had six.
The Miners nailed 42.6 percent (26-61) of their shots while connecting on 73.1 percent (19-26) at the free-throw line. FAU was paced by 15 points from Kat Wright and 10 by Morgan Robinson.
UTEP will head back out on the road for a daunting trip of playing at Southern Miss (5 p.m. MT/6 p.m. CT) on Feb. 18 and at LA Tech (5 p.m. MT/6 p.m. CT) on Feb. 20. USM is 11-0 at home, including 5-0 in league action while LA Tech is 8-3 at home, including 5-0 in C-USA. Both games will be carried by ESPN El Paso, 600 KROD-AM with Brandon Cohn on the call.