RUSTON, La. – UTEP shot 47.9 percent (23-48) from the floor and nailed a season-high 10 triples, but it sustained its first Conference USA loss of the year in an 87-80 setback at LA Tech Saturday afternoon.
“If you’re going to beat them here, you’ve got to do something special.” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “We were unable to get it done today, but I like the way we played. I was really impressed with the things we did out there. Our problem was in the first quarter we just kept turning it over. They hit shots when they needed to hit shots. I think we brought the best out of LA Tech tonight.”
The Miners (10-5, 3-1 C-USA) were hurt by committing 28 turnovers and allowing the Lady Techsters (9-5, 1-2 C-USA) to drill 53.8 percent (28-52) from the floor, including 50.0 percent (11-22) from 3-point range.
Freshman Katia Gallegos flirted with a double-double (15 points, seven assists) to pace a trio of players in double figures. Katarina Zec (13 points) and Ariana Taylor (11 points) buoyed her, while Sabine Lipe (nine points, three assists) and Jade Rochelle (eight points, two assists) led the efforts off the pine.
It was a seesaw battle with 11 ties and 14 lead changes. The game was knotted at 71 with 9:34 to play before LA Tech took control with an 8-0 surge. The Miners battled back, trimming the margin to three (81-78) after a Zec free throw with 3:19 remaining.
That was as close as they would get, with the Lady Techsters staving off every remaining push from the Orange and Blue to improve to 8-2 on the year at home.
LA Tech was led by Keiunna Walker’s double-double (28 points, 10 rebounds). Three other Lady Techsters also reached double digits in scoring, in the form of Grayson Bright (14 points), Raizel Guinto (13 points) and Amber Dixon (12 points).
UTEP jumped out to an 9-4 lead, including a mini 5-0 run by Zec, two minutes into the contest. LA Tech responded with 10 straight points and eventually led the Miners by six (21-15) with 46 seconds to play in the opening quarter. UTEP struck back with consecutive triples by Gallegos and Taylor, respectively, to pull even at 21 through 10 minutes of action.
The home side went back ahead midway through the second frame, with UTEP trailing by four (34-30). Once again, the Orange and Blue had an answer. This time it was with five straight points to regain an advantage at 35-34 with 1:31 left in the first half. It was back-and-forth the final 91 seconds of quarter, and UTEP entered the locker room armed with a two-point edge (38-36).
It was a high-scoring third quarter, with the two teams combining for 62 points in the frame. UTEP’s 30 points in the frame marked its highest scoring road quarter in program history. Overall it tied as the fifth-most points the Orange and Blue have ever tallied in a quarter.
After each team got a triple at the onset of the fourth quarter, LA Tech went on the aforementioned 8-0 that ultimately doomed the Orange and Blue.
UTEP will be idle for a week before it starts a three-game homestand when it plays host to UTSA at 1 p.m. on Jan. 18. Tickets are $5 for kids and $3 for adults, and may be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234.
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