Staar Breedlove, UTEP
HOUSTON, Texas– Starr Breedlove (15 points), Jenzel Nash (12 points) and Sparkle Taylor (10 points) all reached double figures in scoring, and UTEP defended with a vigor in dispatching Rice, 60-54, on the road in the Conference USA opener for both squads Friday afternoon.
The Miners (10-1, 1-0 C-USA) have now won seven straight league lid lifters but the Owls (1-11, 0-1 C-USA) made them work for it. Trailing 37-36 after three quarters, UTEP stormed back down the stretch to pick up the win. The Miners opened up the final quarter on a 13-7 run on the way to outscoring the home side, 24-17, over the final 10 minutes. Included in the sequence were the first six points in the quarter to afford the visitors a lead they would not relinquish.
It was a defensive-minded contest, with both the Miners (21-60, 35.0%, 17 turnovers) and Owls (17-52, 32.7%, 17 turnovers) making offensive execution difficult with their pressure. But UTEP found some separation through its effort on the glass (44-35), in addition to holding a 16-6 advantage in points off turnovers and an 18-9 cushion for second-chance points.
The Miners also got a boost from the bench with 16 points, compared to seven from Rice’s reserves. Senior Lawna Kennedy led the way in that department with a season-high six points, including a perfect 4-4 at the charity stripe.
“It was an ugly win but we’re glad to get out of there with the win,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “Our defense turned it up, and got some key steals. Road wins are great wins, and we’ll take it and move forward. We know we have to play better. We had some careless turnovers and some other things to work on.”
Senior Agata Dobrowolska paced the squad with seven rebounds. She was particularly effective on the offensive end with four, including three in the final 2:07 of the game that led to some big points for the Orange and Blue. Turner (six), Tamara Seda (five) and McKinney (four) also got after it on the glass.
Breedlove was impactful on the contest, and not just with her scoring. She tormented Rice with her pressure defense, making a career-high tying five steals, which helped lead to some easy baskets for the Orange and Blue.
Maya Hawkins tallied a game-high 16 points to pace the Owls, but she needed 15 shots to do so. Wendy Knight pitched in 11 while Alyssa Lang netted nine. Rice did an outstanding job at the free-throw line by making 78.9% (15-19) but it wasn’t enough to compensate for its shortcomings in other areas.
UTEP bolted out to a 7-2 lead four minutes into the contest and continued to lead by that difference (9-4) with 3:23 to play in the opening period. The Owls regrouped nicely, clawing within one (12-11) through 10 minutes of action. UTEP pushed the advantage out to as many as eight in the second quarter before settling for a five-point (26-21) halftime advantage.
The Miners looked to be in good shape, leading 36-28 with 2:25 to go in the third quarter before Rice ripped off nine straight points to pull ahead through three quarters. UTEP regrouped nicely, though, on the way to notching the road victory.
The Miners can’t rest on their laurels, though, as they have a quick turnaround by playing at North Texas at 2 p.m. MST Sunday. Duke Keith will be on the call for the game for 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio.
Author: UTEP Athletics