Destiny Thurman – photo by Ruben R. Ramirez
The UTEP women’s basketball team played its second consecutive overtime contest in as many games, but fell in this one to UAB, 76-74 OT, on Thursday night in the Haskins Center.
The Blazers (8-4, 1-0 Conference USA) shot a scorching – and efficient – 60.4 percent (29-48) from the field, including a 7-of-12 effort from downtown. The Miners (8-3, 0-1 C-USA) shot 32 percent (25-73) from the floor.
UTEP trailed most of the game – 38:05 to be exact – and was down by as many as eight points. But the Miners battled as usual.
“I was really proud of our team, we were behind most of the night,” UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker said. “I’m really not disappointed, we played well enough to win. We lost the game in the first five minutes. We would not guard anybody in the first five minutes. But once we settled in, we were really good the rest of the night. We’ll grow from this and we’ll be better. Conference USA is no joke, every game will be like this one and that’s how it should be.”
Four Miners hit double figures led by Destiny Thurman’s 17 points (7-14 FG) with a pair of steals and two assists. Katia Gallegos tallied 14 points, a team-high three assists and two steals, while Teal Battle and Elina Arike each hit 12 points. Arike added a team-high nine rebounds (eight offensive). Battle added two steals and four rebounds.
UTEP entered the fourth quarter down five points (51-46) and was down six points on a trio of occasion in the stanza.
After being down four (66-62) with 1:54 remaining in the contest, the Miners finally took their first lead since early in the first quarter. Arike converted a second-chance layup on an offensive board, which followed by a steal by Gallegos and a Battle and-1 to give her squad a 67-66 lead with just over a minute to play.
Thurman extended the lead to 69-66 after hitting a pair of free throws with 14 seconds remaining in the game.
But UAB, who had hit big shots all night, hit another when Emily Klaczek buried a 3-pointer to tie the game at 69 with eight seconds remaining. Thurman missed the game winner that forced overtime.
The overtime session was a back-and-forth affair as team traded baskets.
Gallegos gave UTEP a 70-69 edge on a made free throw, followed by a Kylee Schneringer layup and a UAB one-point advantage (71-70). Arike then grabbed another offensive board in which Thurman’s pullup jumper gave the Miners a 72-71 lead. Zakyia Weathersby’s layup made it a 73-72 game and then Thurman came up with another big bucket, hitting a step-back to give UTEP a 74-73 lead with 1:23 to play. But UAB scored the next three points to chalk up the victory.
UAB outrebounded UTEP, 37-35. The Miners also gathered 23 offensive boards, and outscored the Blazers 30-12 on second-chance points. UTEP even snagged 10 steals and forced 23 UAB turnovers. But it was in the paint where the Blazers torched the Miners, outscoring them 40-26.
Margaret Whitley led the way for UAB with 16 points (6-10 FG), while Weathersby, the lone player in C-USA to average a double-double, scored 12 and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. Klaczek added 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
In the first quarter, Thurman hit a 3-pointer to get the Miners on the board first, and Arike put the Miners up 5-4 on a pullup jumper. But that was the last lead UTEP would have as the Blazers outscored the Miners 19-13 in the first quarter.
UTEP, down 23-15, used an 8-0 run to tie the game at 23 in the second quarter. Fontana hit a 3-point bucket, then followed with a step-back jumper after grabbing an offensive board to trim the lead to three (23-20) at the 5:17 mark. Wilson then tied the contest at 23 on a pullup jumper. But UAB used an 11-6 run down the stretch to take a 34-29 lead into the locker room.
UAB shot over 59 percent (13-22) in the first half, while UTEP shot 41.7 percent (10-24) from the floor.
UTEP will ring in 2022 with a contest against Middle Tennessee on New Year’s Day (Sat., Jan. 1). The Miners and Blue Raiders will tip off at 1 p.m. in the Haskins Center. Fans can purchase four tickets for $22. Click here and use promo code: NEWYEAR.
The Miners and Blue Raiders can be heard on the UTEP Miners app with Mando Medina calling the action. The contest will also be streamed on CUSA.tv.
Tickets start at $8 while groups of 10 can purchase tickets for $5 a piece. Fans can buy single-game tickets and season tickets (starting as low as $65) for the new campaign at the Eisenberg Family Ticket Office by calling (915) 747-UTEP, going online, emailing email@example.com, or in person at 500 W. University Ave., 79968-0579 (Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
Gallery by Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post