File Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre/UTEP Communications
DALLAS – Katarina Zec (12 points) and Ariana Taylor (season-high 10 points) both reached double figures in scoring while Ariona Gill (eight points, 11 rebounds) flirted with a double-double in UTEP’s hard-fought 60-56 setback at SMU Thursday evening.
The Miners (7-3) forced 18 turnovers and held the Mustangs (5-4) to 39.0 percent (23-59) from the floor. UTEP shot a similar percentage, but couldn’t compensate for a discrepancy on free throws. SMU finished 12-22 at the charity stripe, including 10-14 in the final frame. UTEP was 3-6 at the line, and did not attempt a free throw during the second half despite holding a 32-24 advantage for points in the paint.
Another factor was rebounds, with the Mustangs controlling the glass by a count of 43-33. UTEP recorded 17 assists on 24 field goals, with Gill dishing out a career-high five helpers. She also set a career best with five steals.
“Defensively we played well enough to win,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “Tonight was just one of those nights where we simply couldn’t make a shot. We got great looks, but could not finish. I loved our fight, and we still almost found a way to win.
The Miners started quickly with back-to-back baskets from Zec before SMU countered with an 10-1 run to put UTEP down five (10-5). Tia Bradshaw floated home a shot in transition to end the surge. It was nearly even the rest of the frame, with the Miners trailing by four (16-12) through 10 minutes of action.
It was back-and-forth through most of the second quarter before a 5-0 run by the home side put UTEP down eight (30-22) inside of one minute. The Miners had a good response, using a jumper from Taylor and a lay-up by Gill to cut the margin to four (30-26) heading to halftime.
After a score on the opening possession of the third quarter by SMU, the Miners peeled off six straight points to pull ahead (33-32) for the first time since it was 4-0. It was a seesaw battle the remainder of the frame, with UTEP by two (44-42) with the contest going into the fourth quarter.
The Miners remained down by two (50-48) with 7:56 to play before four straight SMU free throws put UTEP down by six (54-48) with 4:44 left in the contest. UTEP didn’t flinch, getting back-to-back lay-ups from Tatyana Modawar and Avery Crouse, respectively, to get within two (54-52) and prompt a timeout by the Mustangs. The Miners got another stop out of the break before Gill made a lay-up to tie the tilt (54-54) with 3:09 remaining in regulation.
UTEP couldn’t quite complete the comeback, with SMU closing the contest on a 6-2 push. All six Mustang points in the sequence came at the charity stripe
The Miners will break for the holidays before wrapping up nonconference play at home against Tulsa at 1 p.m. MT on Dec. 29. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids and may be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234.
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