ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands- Senior Sparkle Taylor scored 16 points to go along with eight rebounds but NC State’s pressure and size proved to be too much in a 71-55 defeat in both team’s second game of the Paradise Jam Friday evening.
The Miners (1-4) shot a better percentage from both the floor (19-46, 41.3 percent; 29-72, 40.3 percent) and free-throw line (15-17, 88.2 percent; 7-13, 53.8 percent) than the Wolfpack (5-1) but the ACC power compensated in other areas. NC State won the boards (40-31), aided by 20 offensive rebounds that led to a 19-9 advantage in second-chance points while also forcing 24 turnovers (committed 12) that resulted in a 26-12 margin for points off giveaways.
Junior Tamara Seda (nine points, three rebounds) and freshman Katarina Zec (eight points) nearly joined Taylor in double figures for scoring. Freshman Rachel Tapps set career highs for both points (five) and rebounds (three) with her parents in the stands while Axelle Bernard tallied six points and three boards.
“We probably had about 16 minutes there of good basketball,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “The first half we were really in a good place and at one point we were leading. Tonight’s game was a little bit similar to last night’s game as well. There were too many turnovers-24 turnovers led to 26 points for them- and then giving up 20 offensive rebounds for 19 points off second chance. There’s some things we can draw off of that’s positive but we’ve also got to learn from the things that are hurting us right now. We will keep working hard and need to continue to grow as a team.”
McKinney flashed quick hands to come up with the steal and she finished in transition with a smooth jumper to get UTEP on the board early in the first quarter. After getting a stop, the Miners had wonderful execution on an out-of-bounds play with McKinney finding Zuzanna Puc (four points, four rebounds) for the easy score to put them up, 4-3.
The two sides traded scores for the next few minutes before Taylor splashed home a jumper and a subsequent free throw to give UTEP a 10-7 edge late in the frame. A foul with 4/10th of a second left sent NC State to the free throw line where it split a pair to set the score at 10-8 through 10 minutes of action.
After NC State pulled even (10-10), UTEP scored the next five points in the game to lead 15-10 with 8:01 to play in the period. Axelle Bernard (six points, three rebounds) got it started with a ridiculous left-handed lay-up that went despite some contact. She sunk the free throw and after a UTEP stop, Taylor drilled a jumper.
The margin remained five (21-16) halfway through the quarter before the Wolfpack really tightened things up defensively. NC State put together a 12-1 run to surge out to a 28-22 lead with 1:20 left in the first half. McKinney stepped up to knock down to big free throws to halt the sequence but NC State scored the final four points of the period to lead by eight (32-24) at the half.
Both teams scored on their opening possessions of the third quarter before NC State peeled off six straight points to grab a 15-point lead (41-26) with 7:28 left. The Miners refused to let the Wolfpack run away with it, though, using a Zec buzzer beat to trim the deficit to 11 (50-39) through three quarters of action.
The margin was 12 (59-47) with 6:25 left in the fourth quarter before NC State put together a 12-2 run to sink the Miners in a 22-point hole (71-49) with 1:52 to play in regulation. UTEP continued to battle down the stretch, though, scoring the game’s final six points. Faith Cook nailed a long three pointer, which was followed by a trio of free throws by Tapps.
UTEP will wrap up action at the Paradise Jam by squaring off Big 12 foe and undefeated Kansas State (5-0) at 1:15 p.m. MST/4:15 p.m. AST Saturday at the University of Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center.