Senior Cameasha Turner poured in 20 points to pace a quartet of players in double figures, and UTEP forced 24 turnovers on the way to downing Southern Miss ,72-64, for its ninth straight win in front of a season-high 4,326 fans at the Don Haskins Center Thursday.
It was back-and-forth game with four ties and nine lead changes but the Miners (17-1, 9-0 Conference USA) turned up the heat down the stretch to derail the Lady Eagles (10-8, 3-4 Conference USA). UTEP forced five turnovers in the final three minutes while getting timely scoring from Turner and Jenzel Nash to close out the game in style.
The result was UTEP turning a precarious 63-60 lead into a cozy 72-61 cushion before USM sunk a triple at the buzzer.
UTEP improves to 11-0 at home, including 4-0 in league play, while also extending the best overall start (17-1) in program history.
“It was a great team win I’m very proud of my team and our defense,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “Southern Miss is a well-coached team that plays extremely hard. We had an awesome crowd, and they made a difference tonight.”
Nash (16 points), Sparkle Taylor (13 points) and Starr Breedlove (12 points) buoyed Turner in the scoring department while senior Chrishauna Parker (seven boards) and Nash (seven) got after it on the glass. Turner (four) and Nash (three) came up with multiple steals apiece to spark the defense. Breedlove also had her passing game in high gear, with a contest-best seven assists.
Turner hit 10-11 at the free-throw line, including 5-6 in the final 36 seconds to help ice the game for the Miners.
Both teams shot it well (UTEP 25-58, 43.1 percent, Southern Miss 22-52, 42.3 percent) and USM won the boards (39-34). The Miners compensated by virtue of hitting their free throws (16-21, 76.2 percent) and the aforementioned turnovers forced.
Southern Miss was led by 23 points from Keri Jewett-Giles while post Caitlin Jenkins posted a double-double (14 points, 13 rebounds).
The two teams traded blows in the opening quarter, and it was tied at 16 through 10 minutes of action. The Miners elevated their play in the second quarter, doubling up the Lady Eagles, 20-10, to carry a 10-point lead into halftime.
The visitors refused to quit, striking back to eventually climb back into the lead (47-45) with 2:33 to play in the third quarter. UTEP struck back by scoring eight of the game’s next 10 points to pull ahead for good.
UTEP will wrap up the mini homestand by playing host to Louisiana Tech at 2:05 p.m. MT Saturday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids but kids who wear Super Hero Costumes will get in free as part of “Super Hero Saturday.”