FILE: UTEP #12 Sparkle Taylor was the 2016 C-USA Sixth Player of the Year for the regular-season champion Miners. She also helped UTEP earn runner-up honors at the 2014 WNIT and advance to the quarterfinals in 2016
Senior Sparkle Taylor erupted for a career-high 34 points (tied for sixth most all time at UTEP) but visiting North Texas used a strong effort on the glass and a balanced attack to hand UTEP a 76-69 setback at the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening.
Terriell Bradly (18 points, seven boards), Terra Ellison (14 points, five boards) and Tyara Warren (12 points) led the way for the Mean Green (10-14, 7-6 C-USA), who also won the boards, 37-26. The Miners (6-19, 3-10 C-USA) had the huge night from Taylor while also forcing 21 turnovers, which led to 18 points, but it wasn’t enough.
Taylor drilled 11-16 from the floor while setting career highs in both free throws made (12) and attempted (16) before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Tamara Seda (nine points, five rebounds), Najala Howell (seven points, three rebounds) and Lulu McKinney (five points, four assists, four steals) contributed for the Orange and Blue as well.
UNT nailed 45.1 percent (23-51) from the floor, including 44.4 percent (8-18) from beyond-the-arc. The Miners drilled 40.4 percent (21-52) of their shots, in addition to securing plenty of trips to the free throw line. UTEP nailed 25-35 at the charity stripe; it tied as the most makes on the line this year while setting a season high for attempts.
“It was a disappointing loss,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “We make things difficult on ourselves. It’s a struggle but we’ve got to have short-term memory. We have to forget about this and get ready for a good Rice team. I feel bad for the kids and wish we could have flipped the script tonight. We need a win. We will learn from it and continue to move forward.”
Fans filled into the Don Haskins Center to see their Miners for the first time since January 28th. The home side was spurred on by the support, bolting out to a 24-16 advantage through 10 minutes of action. UTEP got to the free throw line right away, scoring 10 of its 24 points at the stripe. Taylor led the way with seven points in the frame.
Unfortunately as it has been throughout the entire season, the second quarter was a struggle for the Orange and Blue. They allowed 26 points while scoring 16. UNT’s passed allowed it to bury easy looks; Ellison scored 14 in the quarter alone. The Miners dealt with a scoring drought later in the quarter, but Taylor hit back-to-back jumpers late in the frame to bring them within two at halftime (42-40).
The “Sparkle Taylor” show was back in action during the third quarter with the guard tallying 13 of the Miners’ 18 points in the frame. It tied as the fourth-most points in a quarter by a Miner. North Texas continued to push the pace, though, matching the Miners in the quarter.
Taylor continued her onslaught in the fourth quarter but her night came to a close with the unfortunate foul trouble. After her exit North Texas was able to hold on by taking care of business at the free throw line. UNT excelled, missing only five free throws all night.
The Miners will continue their four-game homestand-their longest in 11 years– when they play host to Rice at 2 p.m.Saturday. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for kids, but all military members will get in free with their ID.