UTEP nailed 46 percent from the floor (28-61) and drilled a season-high eight triples but the one-two punch of Tesha Smith (38 points) and Loryn Goodwin (20 points) allowed homestanding UTSA to topple the Miners, 97-76, Saturday afternoon.
Sparkle Taylor (16 points), Lulu McKinney (season-high 15 points, nine assists) and Najala Howell (15 points) all reached double figures in scoring to pace the Miners (5-13, 2-4 C-USA) but the Roadrunners (9-8, 5-1 C-USA) simply had too much firepower.
The Roadrunners piled up 52 points in the paint-while adding 31 more (on 39 attempts) at the free-throw line. UTSA finished at 48 percent (31-64) from the floor, in spite of the Miners holding it to just 4-20 (20.0 percent) from three-point range.
The most damage was done in the second quarter, with Smith (12 points) and Goodwin (11 points) teaming up to power UTSA to a 35-17 advantage in the period. UTEP went toe-to-toe with UTSA in the in the first (18-17), third (23-23) and fourth (18-22) quarters but it wasn’t enough to compensate for that second frame.
There were plenty of whistles, with 29 fouls (third most in the Keitha Adams era) going against UTEP and 20 infractions vs. UTSA. To its credit UTSA took advantage with the 31-39 readout at the line while the Miners finished at 12-23 from the charity stripe.
There were four lead changes and two ties. Both UTSA (10 turnovers) and UTEP (15 turnovers) did well with ball security.
“If we score 76 points that usually would mark a UTEP win,” Adams said. “We are usually pretty good defensively but we weren’t today. You’ve got to tip your hat to UTSA; they’ve got a good ball club.”
After the two sides traded baskets over the first few possessions, the Roadrunners scored five straight to lead, 12-6, with 5:11 to play in quarter. The Miners made some outstanding adjustments, holding UTSA to without a field goal the rest of the period to fuel a 12-5 run to close the frame up one (18-17). The margin would have been bigger, but UTSA did well to get to the line.
The home side found something that worked in the second quarter, opening up the frame on an 11-1 push to vault out to a nine-point cushion (28-19, 6:33 2Q). The differential remained nine (34-25, 3:30 3Q) before an uncommon sequence sparked a big run for UTSA. Carlie Heineman hit a triple that counted, plus a loose-ball foul on UTEP resulted in two free throws (both good) for a five-point possession.
Jessica Barbosa used a strong move on the ensuing UTEP possession but the Roadrunners responded with five straight points to lead 44-27 (2:16 second quarter). The two sides traded scores the remainder of the frame, putting the Orange and Blue in a 17-point deficit (at the break (52-35) at the break.
The Miners had the perfect start to the third quarter, ripping off seven straight points in the blink of an eye to suddenly make it a 10-point game (52-42). McKinney started it with a triple, followed by consecutive stops. Zuzanna Puc and Taylor added baskets to account for the sequence.
To their credit the Roadrunners answered with eight straight points to move back out by 18. UTEP continued to play hard the rest of the way but it could never get closer than 14 the rest of the way.
UTEP will put this game in the rearview mirror and return home to play host to WKU at 7:05 p.m. MST Thursday. There will be free admission to the game as part of the annual “Pack The House” promotion.