NICEVILLE, Fla.- Sparkle Taylor (15 points) and Jakeira Ford (11 points, career-high nine rebounds) both reached double figures in scoring but UTEP couldn’t keep pace with ACC juggernaut Pitt in a 71-46 setback in the first game of the inaugural Patrick Harrington Classic at The Arena at NWF State College Thursday evening.
Brenna Wise (18 points, 10 rebounds), Brandi Harvey-Carr (18 points), Aysia Bugg (10 points) and Kalista Walters (10 points) led the way for the Panthers (8-3), who connected on 44.3 percent (27-61) from the floor. The Miners (2-8) finished at 32.7 percent (17-52) from the field, which was affected by going 2-18 (11.1 percent) from beyond-the-arc.
UTEP kept things competitive on the glass (41-38, Pitt) with the much larger Panthers but it was hindered by an inability to knock down shots with consistency. Tamera Seda and Ford paced the squad in rebounds with nine apiece while Zuzanna Puc secured six caroms.
“We couldn’t throw it in the ocean,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “We really struggled with our shooting and had a lot of missed opportunities. They just outplayed us. We had a horrible offensive outing, and it’s going to be very difficult if we can’t find a way to put up more points.”
Pitt took an early 6-0 lead before the teams traded scores. Taylor drained a jumper to make it 10-4 but the Panthers got four straight points to take their first double-digit advantage (14-4) of the contest. The deficit was eight (16-8) through 10 minutes of action.
The Orange and Blue got a score to start the second stanza, again from Taylor, only to have Pitt put together an 18-6 run to grab a 34-16 advantage cushion with 2:48 remaining in the half. Defense dominated over the final three minutes of the half, but UTEP still faced a 17-point deficit (37-20) heading into the locker room.
UTEP played its best period of the contest in the third quarter, going back-and-forth with the Panthers for all 10 minutes of action. Both teams compiled 19 points in the frame, allowing Pitt to maintain a 56-39 advantage heading to the fourth quarter.
UTEP continued to play hard down the stretch but it was unable to get any closer. The Panthers closed out the contest on an 8-2 run.
The Orange and Blue will wrap up play at the Patrick Harrington Classic by locking up with Alabama at 6 p.m. MT/7 p.m. CST on Tuesday. Fans can listen live to Brandon Cohn on 600 ESPN El Paso. The Miners will then take a break for Christmas.