BIRMINGHAM, Ala.- (1) UTEP forced 21 turnovers and played hard but couldn’t get enough shots to fall in an 66-54 setback vs. (5) Old Dominion in the semifinals of the 2016 Conference USA Championships at Legacy Arena Friday.
The Miners (26-4) will now play the waiting game, and will learn their postseason fate on Monday. The Lady Monarchs (17-16) advance to the C-USA title to face either Middle Tennessee, which downed Marshall, 69-41.
Cameasha Turner tallied 18 points while Jenzel Nash (13 points) and Starr Breedlove (10 points) all hit double for the Miners. ODU was paced by Jennie Simms’s double-double (21 points, 10 rebounds) while Ije Ajemba (14 points) and Gianna Smith (10 points) also got things going.
UTEP committed only 12 turnovers and enjoyed advantages in points in the paint (26-20) and points off turnovers (17-12) but that wasn’t enough to compensate for an off shooting day. The Miners finished at 28.8 percent (19-66) from the floor-compared to ODU’s 39.1 percent (18-46).
Old Dominion also won the rebounding battle (47-36) while also taking advantage of getting to the free-throw line early and often. The Lady Monarchs connected on 26-41 (63.4 percent) at the charity stripe, with Simms going 11-14 in that area. UTEP was 12-17 (70.6 percent) at the free-throw line.
“Today was a tough day for us,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “Offensively, we just really couldn’t find any rhythm. And our shots weren’t falling for us. It was a tough day on that end. We’ve had a great season. I told our players in the locker room I’m very proud of the competitiveness and heart these guys have shown all year and how we play defense and getting after it. We’re all disappointed but it was just a day where we couldn’t get any shots to fall. Old Dominion is playing good ball right now. It was a very spirited, competitive game. They played hard. We played hard. We just came up short.”
Old Dominion jumped out to a 15-10 lead after the first quarter before extending it to as many as 17 (29-12) with 4:10 to play in the second stanza. The deficit was 12 (38-26) with 7:36 to play in the third quarter before the Orange and Blue began to put together one of their patented runs.
Turner and Breedlove combined for seven straight points to get the deficit down to four (38-34, 5:52 third quarter). ODU got a basket to momentarily stem the tide but the Miners went right back to work. UTEP eventually managed to tie the tilt, on two occasions (40-40, 42-42) only to have the Lady Monarchs get back-to-back baskets to carry a four-point cushion (46-42) into the fourth quarter.
UTEP, which used a lot of energy during that 14-2 run, was unfortunately unable to keep things going in the fourth quarter. ODU relied on free throws and a couple of timely three pointers to extend the margin back out to 11 (55-44) with 4:54 to play in regulation.
The Miners refused to quit, though, relying on a Breedlove triple and a driving lay-up from Turner to get the deficit down to six (55-49) with 3:57 left. ODU weathered the storm and scored the game’s next nine points to seal UTEP’s fate.
Author: UTEP Athletics