Senior Sparkle Taylor posted her third career double-double (14 points, 13 rebounds) but visiting Texas Southern rode the hot shooting of Kaitlyn Palmer (24 points) to knock off UTEP, 89-68, inside the Don Haskins Center Sunday afternoon.
Palmer connected on 8-16 from three-point range to lead a quartet of players in double figures for the Lady Tigers (1-0), who managed to counter every run by the Miners (0-2) to emerge victorious. TSU, which has averaged 20 victories over the past four years, connected on 45.8 (33-72) of its shots while the youth-laden UTEP squad finished at 36.1 percent (27-72) from the floor.
The Miners, who have more newcomers (eight) than returnees (five) on the roster for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign, did well to win the boards (49-48) while also forcing 15 turnovers but it wasn’t enough to compensate in other areas.
“There’s only one way out with this thing and that’s just hard work,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “We’re going to have to get in the gym and work harder, get tougher and more physical. The most important thing right now is that we stay together and just work our way out of this. I like our players. We’re young, facing some adversity right off the bat and I just encourage them to bring some things every day in practice consistently.”
Junior college transfer Axelle Bernard stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, seven rebounds and five blocks in a team-high 34 minutes of action. Freshman Zuzanna Puc nearly recorded a double-double (nine points, 10 rebounds). Freshman Jakeira Ford (nine points, three rebounds), Junior Lulu McKinney (seven points, four assists), junior-college transfer Chanel Khammarath (five points, two steals), freshman Katarina Zec (five points, two rebounds) and sophomore Najala Howell (five points) buoyed the efforts of Taylor.
Taylor’s 13 rebounds were a career high, as were her 31 minutes played.
UTEP got off to a quick start, grabbing a 6-3 lead just three minutes into the contest. The Miners were still up (9-7, 5:40 1Q) before the Lady Tigers found another gear. They peeled off 10 straight points to secure an eight-point cushion (17-9) with 1:52 to play in the first quarter. UTEP did well to regroup and cut the deficit in half (20-16) at the end of the quarter.
The deficit was still manageable at three points (27-24, 7:13 2Q) before TSU ripped off seven consecutive points in less than a minute to grab its initial double-digit lead (34-24, 6:22 2Q) of the contest. Once again UTEP went to work, chopping away at the deficit to whittle it down to five (37-32, 3:34 2Q). Much to the chagrin of the Orange and Blue faithful, Texas Southern pushed it back out to a nine-point cushion (47-38) heading into halftime. UTEP continued to play hard after the break, but it was unable to get any closer.
The Miners will wrap up their season-opening three-game homestand when they play host to Western New Mexico at 7:05 p.m. MSTThursday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids.