DENTON, Tx- UTEP won the boards (34-28) and held North Texas to 35.4 percent (17-48) shooting to grind out a 50-48 road win Sunday afternoon.
The Miners (13-7, 4-3 C-USA) led for nearly 32 minutes of action, got enough stops down the stretch and hit shots in key moments to secure the hard-fought win against the Mean Green (11-9, 2-6 C-USA).
Katarina Zec tallied 11 points in the game, including nailing the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:34 left in regulation. The shot put UTEP up, 48-46, while also wiping away the only second-half lead by North Texas. The margin was one (49-48) when Terriell Bradley, who poured in a game-high 22 points, misfired on a driving jumper in the waning seconds.
Jordan Alexander, who tallied eight points to go along with a career-high 13 rebounds, secured the board and was fouled. She split the pair with 0.5 seconds left. North Texas called timeout to advance the ball but its in-bound pass hit the rim and time expired.
Tamara Seda (13 points), Zec and Howell (10 points, seven rebounds) joined forces with Alexander to provide the bulk of the offense.
After shooting 57.9 percent (11-19) in the opening half to surge out to a 34-25 lead at the break, the Miners finished 3-20 (15.0 percent) over the final 20 minutes. UTEP compensated for that by nailing 7-10 at the free-throw line in the half, which put them at 16-22 (72.7 percent) for the contest. Conversely the Mean Green were just 10-18 on charity stripe tosses.
“It went down to the wire and I’m just really impressed with our team’s resiliency one more time,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “They just kept getting rebound after rebound. I was really pleased with our defense. We were trying to hold them under 50-that was our goal-and we kept them to 48. I like the way our team is guarding.”
The two sides traded scores early in the contest, with the Mean Green holding a 10-7 advantage with 4:42 to play in the opening frame. Alexander drilled a straight away 3-pointer to tie the tilt, which was followed by a pair of free throws from Zuzanna Puc to make it a mini 5-0 run. The effort gave the Miners their first lead (12-10) of the game. After UNT tied the tilt UTEP scored five of the next six points in the frame before a late Mean Green free throw made it 17-14 through 10 minutes of action.
The Mean Green clawed within two (18-16) within the first minute of the second quarter before the Orange and Blue started to come alive. They ripped off seven straight points, with Howell providing five of them, to vault out to a nine-point cushion (25-16) with 7:37 to play in the half. It was back-and-forth for the remainder of the period, allowing UTEP to maintain a nine-point advantage (34-25) heading to halftime.
UNT had a quick start to the third quarter, tallying six consecutive points to trim the Miner margin to three (34-31) with 8:27 to play in the period. Zec put an end to that by draining a 3-pointer from the top of the circle. After UTEP got a stop, Jordan Jenkins knocked down a triple of her own to reestablish UTEP’s nine-point halftime lead (40-31).
The Mean Green didn’t wither away, but instead went on a 10-2 run over the next seven minutes to cut UTEP’s lead to one (42-41). Seda sunk a pair of free throws with five seconds left to put the Orange and Blue up by three (44-41) following three quarters of action.
Both teams locked things up defensively in the fourth quarter, with the two squads combining for three points over the first six minutes of action in the frame. The result was the Miners clinging to a 45-43 lead with 3:26 remaining in regulation before the Mean Green’s Brittany Smith nailed a triple. UTEP didn’t flinch, as on the ensuing possession Zec buried a trey to put the Miners back on top by two (48-46) with 2:34 left.
UTEP got a free throw by Seda to extend its edge to three and then got three stops on the final four possessions by North Texas. The lone basket in the stretch was by Bradley with 21 seconds to play to cut the lead to one but UTEP dug deep and held one.
The Orange and Blue will return home to challenge co-league leader UAB at 7 p.m. MST Friday. The game will be streamed live on the beIN Sports app, and a TV tape-delay airing will take place after men’s hoops programming that evening.
It will also be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso with Steve Kaplowitz and Traci Miller on the call.