The UTEP women’s basketball team clinched at least a share of the 2016 Conference USA regular-season title while also locking up the number one seed in the upcoming C-USA Championships after knocking off Old Dominion, 70-64, inside the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening.
The Miners (24-2, 15-1 C-USA) led the Lady Monarchs (12-15, 8-7 C-USA) wire-to-wire on the way to posting their school-record setting 15th consecutive home victory.
Cameasha Turner (18 points, eight rebounds and four steals), Starr Breedlove (16 points, four steals) and Sparkle Taylor (14 points) led the way for the Orange and Blue, who also extended their overall win streak to six. Moreover, the Miners are now 13-1 on the season in games vs. opponents who beat them last year.
“There was a lot on the line tonight and we played a very talented and very good Old Dominion team,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “I can’t say enough for how proud I am of our players and for how hard we fought. It was a fantastic crowd; they got behind us and they were loud.”
The Miners held ODU to 34.5 percent (19-55) shooting while also forcing 19 turnovers. UTEP enjoyed a big margin in bench scoring (25-14) and fast-break points while doing good work to stay within one (20-19) for second-chance points.
Tamara Seda (nine points) and Taylor (14 points) helped factor into the advantage from reserve scoring.
Another factor was UTEP taking great care of the ball, piling up 13 assists while committing only seven turnovers. Lulu McKinney dished out four helpers while Chrishauna Parkeradded three to go along with her seven rebounds.
Destinee Young (17 points, 17 rebounds), Jennie Simms (14 points, eight rebounds) and Gianna Smith (13 points) all reached double figures for ODU, but no one else on the squad had more than six points. Turner made Sims, who entered the game at a C-USA leading 19.8 points/game), work for everything she got. Sims was 4-11 from the floor, including 0-1 from three-point land, while getting the rest of her points (6-9) at the charity stripe.
UTEP bolted out to a 20-11 lead after the first quarter before cruising into halftime up by 10 (35-25). The margin grew to as many as 15 (59-44) with 8:07 to play in the fourth quarter before ODU, which downed UTEP 79-50 last year, started to mount a comeback bid.
The visitors put together an 18-6 run over the next seven minutes to get all the way back within three (65-62) with 48 seconds left. UTEP kept its composure, with Breedlove sinking four throws down the stretch and Seda adding another to close the contest out in style.
UTEP, which claimed C-USA titles in 2008 and 2012, can secure its third outright crown in program history with a victory against a high-caliber Charlotte squad at 2:05 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are only $5 for adults and $3 for kids on “Senior Day,” and may be purchased by calling the UTEP ticket office at 915-747-5234.