LAS VEGAS – Freshman Ariana Taylor came off the bench to pour in a career-high 16 points but UTEP was upended against Akron, 64-57, in its second and final game at the Vegas South Point Holiday Hoops Classic Friday evening.
The Miners (3-9) trailed by 10 (41-31) with 6:17 to play in the third quarter before the bench essentially orchestrated a 12-0 run to give them their first lead since it was 4-2 in the opening frame. It was back-and-forth the rest of the way, before the Zips (8-2) used a 6-0 run late to create some separation and hold on for the win.
“I’m real disappointed that we didn’t win this game, but we came here to play well for two games and we did that,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “Akron is a really good basketball team. They hit some timely shots. The game could have gone either way. I really feel like we’re walking out of Las Vegas with something to build on. I’m so pleased with how we played today.”
UTEP’s reserves proved their worth, accounting for 37 of the team’s 57 points on the night. The Miners connected on 41.3 percent (19-46) of their shots while going 15-18 at the charity stripe. UTEP took good care of the ball, committing only 10 turnovers.
All 10 Miners suited up played between 18-26 minutes during the contest. Taylor was the lone member of the Orange and Blue to reach double figures in scoring. Katarina Zec buoyed her with eight, followed by Sabine Lipe (career-high tying seven) and Alexa Hoy (five).
Akron hit 43.4 percent (23-53) from the field, but finished just 8-26 (30.8 percent) on 3-point tosses. Megan Sefcik paced her squad with 17 points while Shaunay Edmonds (13 points) and Caitlin Vari (10 points) also reached double figures for scoring.
UTEP scored the first four points in the contest on layups by Puc and Zec, respectively. The Zips countered by ripping off an 8-0 run, capped by an old-fashioned 3-point play from Shayna Harmon. Alexander ended the push with a lay-up of her own. The two sides went back-and-forth the remainder of the frame, with the Orange and Blue trailing by four (14-10) through 10 minutes of action.
It remained a four-point affair (17-13) early on in the second stanza before the Zips got on a bit of a run to put the Miners down by 10 (24-14 6:05 2Q). UTEP regrouped and closed the period out on a 15-6 surge, which was ignited by seven straight points. The effort allowed the Miners to cut the once 10-point deficit down to just one (30-29) heading into the locker room.
Akron had a strong start to the third quarter, using an 11-2 surge to grab the aforementioned 10-point cushion (41-31) with 6:17 to play in the frame. UTEP struck back with the 12-0 run to regain the lead (43-41) with 3:04 to play in the third quarter. The contest was tied (45-45) heading to the fourth quarter. It was a one-point affair (57-56) in favor of Akron before the MAC foes ripped off six straight points to seal UTEP’s fate.
The Miners will be off for a holiday break before returning to action to conclude nonconference play at Tulsa at 1 p.m. MT/2 p.m. CT on Dec. 29. The contest will be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso with Duke Keith on the call.