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WKU Topples UTEP at the Don 71-54

Sparkle Taylor tallied a game-high 23 points and UTEP shot 45 percent (23-51) from the floor but visiting and C-USA leader WKU emerged with a 71-54 win in front of a season-best 2,469 fans at the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening.

The Lady Toppers’ (15-5, 7-1 C-USA) pressure gave the Miners (5-14, 2-5 C-USA) fits in the first half, allowing WKU to build a 41-21 halftime lead. Fourteen of the 17 Miner turnovers came in that opening frame, which the visitors converted into 19 points.

UTEP made some fine adjustments at the break, resulting in a +3 (33-30) differential over the final 20 minutes of action. The Miners committed only three turnovers in the second half while also slowing down WKU’s attack. UTEP cut the deficit to 15 on a pair of occasions but WKU was able to answer every run.

“Western Kentucky has a good team and they did a nice job today on their defense,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “They pressed us and showed us a different kind of look than we’ve seen all year. We turned the ball over too much, especially in the first half. We made some adjustments at halftime and did a better job in the second half.

“They disrupted our offense, which is a credit to them,” Adams said. “They play very well together and have high basketball IQ. You put the combination of those things together and it made for a tough day.

Tashia Brown (13 points, seven rebounds), Kendall Noble (12 points, nine assists) and Ivy Brown (10 points) led the way for WKU, which nailed 46.2 percent (30-65) of its shots. Aiding that figure was an astonishing 76.9 percent (10-13) in a nearly flawless second quarter.

Freshman Jakeira Ford proved a spark off the bench for the Miners with six points and five rebounds in 198 minutes of action. Lulu McKinney (six points, two assists) and Zuzanna Puc (five points, career-high three assists) also made contributions for the Orange and Blue.

The two sides fought for momentum early, with five ties and five lead changes over the first six minutes of action. UTEP did well to get down low, tallying 10 points in the paint and adding a free throw.

The Lady Toppers, though, found another gear and wrapped a 16-0 run around the quarter change to surge ahead. The gut-wrenching sequence turned an 11-9 Miner advantage (4:23 1Q) into a 25-11 cushion (7:06 2Q) for the visitors.

Ford showed good range by knocking down a long two, halting the surge in the process as well. The Miners continued to battle, using a free throw by Taylor to get within 11 (27-16, 5:20 2Q). Unfortunately the Lady Toppers put together a 14-2 run to grab their largest lead (41-18) of the contest. McKinney drained a long triple to stop the sequence, but the damage had been done.

As expected of an Adams’s led squad, UTEP dug deep with aspirations of rallying in the second stanza. Taylor keyed the charge, scoring 13 points in the blink of an eye during a dominant stretch in the third quarter. But Noble and company countered every surge.

UTEP will look to apply some lessons learned from the setback when it wraps up the mini two-game homestand against Marshall at 2 p.m. MST Saturday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids.

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H-P Sports In Depth: Miners Begin 2-Game Homestand vs WKU, Marshall Thursday

UTEP (5-13, 2-4 C-USA) opens up a short homestand by playing host to C-USA preseason favorite and first-place (three-way tie) Western Kentucky (14-5, 6-1 C-USA) at 7:05 p.m. MST Thursday.

There will be free admission to the game as part of the annual “Pack The House” promotion, with fans encouraged to visit Albertsons or GECU to pick up their vouchers to get in free.

Steve Kaplowitz (play-by-play) and Traci Miller (color commentary) will have the call on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio. Fans may also stay up-to-date by following the Miners (@UTEPWBB) or Lady Toppers (@LadyTopperHoops) on Twitter.

The game will be streamed live on the beIN Sports app (Duke Keith-play-by-play and Wayne Thornton-color), and a TV tape-delay airing will take place after men’s hoops programming that evening.

–  UTEP, which is in the midst of playing seven of nine on the road, is home for the first time since Jan. 7.

–  WKU has won four straight and nine of 10, including a 73-57 dispatching of Marshall (1/21) last time out.

–  The Miners are 4-5 at home, including 1-2 in C-USA. WKU is 3-2 on the road, including 1-1 mark in C-USA.

–  UTEP’s two-game homestand concludes vs. Marshall (2 p.m. MST Saturday).

–  Following the mini homestand the Miners will play four straight league road games for the first time since 2005-06 (initial year in C-USA). Upon conclusion of that, UTEP will have had seven of nine away from home.

–  In six league games UTEP is shooting 41.1 percent (159-387), compared to 39.7 percent (153-385) by its opponents, while both are 30.6 (30-98) on triples, but UTEP’s scoring margin is -4.5 (72.0-76.5). A big difference has been free throws. Foes have hit 75.0 percent (123-164) to UTEP’s 67.7 percent ( 84-124), with opponents nearly having as many makes (123) at the line as UTEP does total attempts (124).


–  Teams play all 13 members at least once and face five teams in home-and-home for 18-game C-USA slate.

–  The top 12 teams (14 in C-USA) will qualify for the single-elimination tournament (March 8-11, Birmingham, Ala.-UAB) with the top four teams as seeded by regular season standings receiving a bye. The winner will gain the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.

–  Charlotte (6-1), Middle Tennessee (6-1) and WKU (6-1) share first place in the league with UTSA (5-1) 1/2 game back. LA Tech (4-3) is the only other team with a winning league mark. FAU (0-7) is only one with a league win.


–  UTEP leads the series, 2-1, but WKU is 1-0 in El Paso. #24 WKU bested UTEP, 80-74, (1/22/15).

–  The Miners returned the favor with an 85-78 win in Bowling Green, Ky., on Feb. 6, 2016.

–  The only other meeting between the schools was when #7-seed UTEP downed #10-seed WKU, 92-60, on March 22, 2008, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.


Overall: 14-5     Home: 10-1       Road 3-2           Neutral 1-2   | C-USA: 6-1                    Home: 5-0         Road 1-1

–  The Lady Toppers returned four starters and eight letter winners overall from last year’s team (27-7, 15-3) that advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2016 WNIT.

–  After a 3-3 start to the year, WKU has gone 11-2 to improve to 14-5 overall. The surge has the Lady Toppers well on their way to their fifth consecutive 20+ win season.

–  Voted the preseason C-USA favorite, WKU has lived up to the billing thus far with a 6-1 mark in league play to stand in a three-way tie for first place. Five of its seven C-USA games have been at home.

–  WKU leads C-USA and is top-40 nationally for fewest turnovers/game (12.4-10th), free-thr0w percentage (77.8-13th), scoring margin (+14.7-26th), scoring offense (75.9-26th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.14-40th)

–  Also upper echelon of league for scoring defensive (61.2-second), fewest fouls/game (15.6-second), turnover margin (+5.3-27th), steals/game (10.2-third), field-goal percentage (43.3-fourth), blocks/game (3.1-sixth), three-point FG defense (31.3-seventh) and rebounds/game (38.5-seventh).

–  Reigning C-USA Player and Defensive Player of the Year leads the charge for WKU. Noble paces the team and is among the league/national rankings for points/game (14.9-ninth/197th), assists/game (4.7-sixth/77th) and steals/game (2.7-fourth-37th). Noble is the lone D1 player in the nation to have at least 14.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.5 apg and 2.5 spg.

–  Tashia Brown (14.0 ppg) and Ivy Brown (13.7 ppg) join Noble in double figures for scoring. Ivy Brown is the squad’s top rebounder (8.6-fourth/76th).

–  Storied history with 18 NCAA Tournament appearances and 11 WNIT bids while also finishing in the final Associated Press Top-25 poll on nine occasions.

–  Notable university alumni include Romeo Crennel (former head coach of the Cleveland Browns & KC Chiefs), the late Duncan Hines (pioneer of restaurant ratings for travelers), the late Cordell Hull (Secretary of State under FDR, Nobel Peace Prize winner),

LAST MEETING WITH WKU (UTEP 85, at WKU 78 (2/7/16)

–  Five different Miners reached double figures in scoring and UTEP turned up the defensive pressure late to emerge with an 85-78 win at Western Kentucky on Feb. 6.

–  The Miners rallied from 13 points down (22-9), marking the third-largest come-from-behind road victory in program history.

–  UTEP took sole possession of first place in C-USA while also snapping WKU’s 15-game home winning streak. It was the first home loss for the Lady Toppers since Jan. 31, 2015.

–  Starr Breedlove (21 points, seven assists, career-high six steals) led the way but she had plenty of help. Cameasha Turner tallied 17 points and five boards while Lulu McKinney came off the bench to contribute 14 points, aided by making 4-6 from three-point range. McKinney also dished out six assists. Tamara Seda provided a big presence inside by setting career highs in rebounds (11) and blocked shots (three) while adding four rebounds while Sparkle Taylor pitched in 10 points as well.

–  UTEP shot 52.4 percent (33-63) from the floor, and compiled 18 assists while only making 10 turnovers.

 – WKU was led by 29 points from Tashia Brown, with Kendall Noble (12 points) and Ivy Brown (12 points) also hitting double figures.

–  The Lady Toppers nailed 54.5 (30-55) percent from the floor and won the boards (32-28) but they had issues with the Miners’ pressure at key junctures.

–  WKU committed 15 turnovers, which led to 23 UTEP points. The Miners also had big advantage in second-chance points (15-6) and bench scoring (37-17).


H-P Sports In Depth: Miners Travel to Kentucky to take on WKU

The UTEP Miners are playing their best basketball of the season and have posted three consecutive victories behind the winning staples of defense and rebounding.

Now they’ll see if that formula for success translates to the road when they play at WKU (Thursday, 6 p.m. MT) and Marshall (Saturday, 5 p.m. MT) this weekend.

Thursday’s game against the Hilltoppers (9-11, 3-4 C-USA) will be televised on beIN Sports.

UTEP (5-13, 3-3 C-USA) has held its last three opponents to 63.7 points per game (53.3 ppg if you throw out three overtime periods versus FIU and Florida Atlantic).

“I just think the diversity of our defense [has made a difference],” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “We have added a point zone that has helped us.  We have been playing more multiple defenses.  Some box and one, some triangle, and our man to man has gotten better because we’re getting back defensively better and we’re rebounding second shots better.”

The Miners have a rebound margin of +5.0 per game during the win streak, and that has coincided with sophomore forward Paul Thomas collecting 32 boards.

“What we’re watching is the development of a young player,” Floyd said.  “He is getting better because of opportunity with the time on the court.  The greatest number that he has produced has been the rebounding numbers the last three games.  And now he’s scoring and finding out that [rebounding is] a great way to score.”

Thomas has averaged 15.0 points over the last three games.  The Miners, offensively challenged all season, also got 11 points from sophomore guard Trey Touchet against FIU and 11 from junior forward Jake Flaggert versus UTSA.

“We needed that third scorer.  Paul has given us that,” Floyd said.  “We have gotten a little bit from Touchet and Flaggert in terms of having a potential fourth scorer.  And we are still waiting for Matt Willms to really break out like he did in the tournament in Charleston, but that can happen and we can have even further growth.”

All of this has added up to three wins and a renewed confidence.

“I do think we played with more confidence in the last ballgame [versus UTSA],” Floyd said.  “We weren’t efficient offensively in the second half, but our guys are feeling that they can stop people now, and when you’re doing that I think it helps the well being of everybody, including the coaches.”

Now comes the tricky part, securing a road victory for the first time in 2016-17 (0-5 record).  The Miners will also try to keep the winning streak going as they enter the meat of their conference schedule.  Their next five opponents – WKU, Marshall, UAB, Middle Tennessee, LA Tech – entered the week a combined 26-9 in Conference USA play.  WKU and Marshall are a combined 16-1 on their home courts.

“You want to win them both [this weekend] but let’s face it, these next five, given our record, we’re going to be the underdog in all five games,” Floyd said.  “We’ve got to do a lot of things well to get anywhere, but let’s start with the next one.”

The next one is WKU, which has several newcomers in its first year under the direction of coach Rick Stansbury.  That includes transfers guard Que Johnson (Washington State), Pancake Thomas (Hartford) and Junior Lomomba (Providence) who rank 1-3-7 on the team in scoring.  WKU also has junior forward Justin Johnson, who averages 13.4 points and 8.1 rebounds.  He is coming off a 21-point, nine rebound effort at Marshall.

“I think that they really shocked a lot of people by who they were able to get,” Floyd said.  “A lot of people were scratching their heads saying ‘Good God, they got that guy?  Wow, how did they get that guy?’  They put together a roster that gives them a chance to win every night.  Justin Johnson is in my top-three favorite players in this league because of how hard he plays and the toughness he plays with.  They’ve got shot blocking, they’ve got guards that can score, and they’ve got guards that can pass it. They really did a fine, fine job of assembling some talent there in a short period of time.”

***Miners In Depth

With the third-longest active winning streak in Conference USA, UTEP (5-13, 3-3 C-USA) hits the road to face WKU on Thursday in Bowling Green, Ky.

The Miners have posted three consecutive victories.  Middle Tennessee has won seven in a row and LA Tech has won four in a row.  This is UTEP’s longest win streak since a six-gamer from Feb. 4-20, 2016.  UTEP has climbed from a tie for 12th place in the C-USA standings to seventh with the three wins.

Even with the three game streak, the Miners are still seeking their first road win of the season.  UTEP is 0-5 in enemy venues and has dropped seven consecutive road games dating back to last season.  The Miners’ last road win came at Florida Atlantic, 89-82 on Feb. 13, 2016.

WKU is 579-163 all-time at E.A. Diddle Arena, and 6-1 this season.  The Hilltoppers are 1-1 at home in league play with a win over Charlotte (82-80) and loss to Old Dominion (79-67).


–    The Hilltoppers have several newcomers in their first year under the direction of coach Rick Stansbury, including transfer guards Que Johnson (Washington State), Junior Lomomba (Providence) and Pancake Thomas (Hartford).
–    Johnson is first on the team in scoring (14.7 ppg), Thomas is third (13.0 ppg) and Lomomba is seventh (5.7 ppg).
–    Junior forward Justin Johnson collects 13.4 ppg and a team-leading 8.1 rpg.  He is one of two returning starters from last year’s 18-win squad (senior forward Anton Waters, who has come off the bench for all but two games in 2016-17, is the other).
–    Thomas is fourth in C-USA in minutes (35.0 avg.) and is also 20th in scoring, tied for eighth in free throw percentage (.808), 15th in three-point field goal percentage (.358) and 15th in three-pointers made per game (2.0).
–    Justin Johnson is seventh in C-USA in rebounding, 10th in field goal percentage (.516) and 18th in scoring.  He is coming off a 21-point, nine-rebound effort at Marshall where he made 10-of-16 shots.
–    Que Johnson is 16th in the league in scoring and tied for 11th in three-pointers per game (2.1).  He played against UTEP three times while at Washington State (2013-16), scoring 42 points (14 ppg) and shooting 55.6 percent (15-for-27) from the field, 57.1 percent (8-for-14) from outside and 66.7 percent (4-for-6) from the line.  Johnson scored 21 points versus the Miners as a freshman on Dec. 21, 2013 in Pullman.
–    WKU commits the fourth-fewest fouls in the nation at 14.8 per game.  The Hilltoppers have made more free throws (291) than their opponents have attempted (290), and they average 21.6 attempts per outing to opponents’ 14.5.


–     WKU leads the series 2-1.  The teams have split two meetings as members of Conference USA, with both winning in overtime on their home floor.  WKU posted a 71-66 victory on Jan. 22, 2015 in Bowling Green, and UTEP prevailed 93-89 on Feb. 6, 2016 in El Paso.
–     The first meeting was on Dec. 19, 1969 at the Jayhawk Classic in Lawrence, Kan. (the Hilltoppers won 78-59).


–    Lee Moore scored all 23 of his points after halftime, and Earvin Morris tallied a career-high 32 as UTEP rallied from a double-digit deficit and edged WKU, 93-89 in overtime, on Feb. 6, 2016 at the Haskins Center.
–    The Miners were down 19 (70-51) with 8:47 remaining in regulation.  They outscored the Hilltoppers 42-19 after that on a day that the 1966 national champion Texas Western Miners were honored on their 50th anniversary.  It was UTEP’s biggest comeback victory under coach Tim Floyd.
–    The Miners outscored WKU 26-7 to end regulation.  Moore scored 15 of the 26 points, including a three-point play with 26 seconds left that ultimately forced the extra period.
–    UTEP scored the first four points in overtime — a layup and dunk by Morris — and never looked back.  Morris scored the Miners’ first seven points in OT.
–    UTEP forced 20 turnovers by WKU and outscored the Hilltoppers in points off turnovers, 24-4.
–    The Miners were only out-boarded 46-43 by the top rebounding team in the league with Moore collecting his first career double-double (11 boards).
–    Morris made 11-of-24 shots and 9-of-13 free throws.  Moore shot 8-for-12 in the second half.


–    UTEP has averaged 62.2 points in its five road games, shooting 43.7 percent (118-for-270) from the field, 36.8 percent (32-for-87) from three-point territory and 60.6 percent (43-for-71) from the free throw line.
–    Defensively, UTEP is allowing 72.2 ppg with a .456 (115-for-252) field goal percentage and .368 (39-for-106) three-point percentage.
–    Opponents have taken 127 free throws to UTEP’s 71, an average of 11.2 more attempts per contest.
–    The Miners have turned it over 21 more times than their opponents (81-60).  They have been outscored 66-25 in points off turnovers in their three C-USA road games.
–    Omega Harris is averaging 19.0 ppg on the road this season.  Dominic Artis is averaging 16.0 ppg, Paul Thomas 7.6 ppg and Matt Willms 6.4 ppg.  Thomas has made 18-of-30 shots (.600) on the road in 2016-17 and has dished out 10 assists with four turnovers over 131 minutes (26.2 mpg).


–    UTEP will play at Marshall on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT.
–    The Miners will open a four-game homestand, which ties their longest of the season, against UAB on Feb. 2 at 8 p.m.  Legendary Miner Jeep Jackson will be honored on the 30th anniversary of his passing at the UAB game.

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