Photo by Ruben R Ramirez - El Paso Herald Post

UTEP stops Southern Miss in OT 86-79

Playing in their school-record fourth overtime game of the season, UTEP outlasted Conference USA West Division leader Southern Miss to pick up an 86-79 win on Senior Day on Saturday in the Don Haskins Center.

Starting her second game in a row and third of the season, Mahri Petree made a resounding impact early and often for the Miners (14-11, 6-9), scoring a career-high 23 points while also grabbing eight rebounds and drilling a career-high six 3-pointers.

For the second straight contest it was Petree who sparked a fast start, with the Miners hitting their first four triples of the game – including three for Petree – to race out to a 14-7 lead just over five minutes in.

As a team, UTEP connected on seven of the first 10 attempts from downtown, with Petree sinking one with 8:09 in the second quarter that gave her 15 early points on triples as she eclipsed her previous UTEP high of 13 points less than 12 minutes into the game.

“I felt as though we controlled the game from the tip,” UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker said. “They made an amazing comeback to put the game into overtime and that’s a credit to them because we were playing really well. I thought our team was playing so well today that I never felt uncomfortable, even in the overtime when we scored the first two baskets. I felt so confident with our group, and we needed it. Our kids have been resilient all year long.”

The 27 first quarter points were the most for the Miners since dropping 28 in the first quarter on North Dakota on Nov. 13.

Petree’s fifth shot from distance was part of a 10-0 run for the Miners that blew the lead open to 36-15 with 4:42 before the half.

“We couldn’t take no for an answer,” Petree said. “We have been through too much and fought through too much. We have taken punches straight to the face and every single day we come back and we work harder, and we just pour everything we have into it. I wasn’t going to leave anything inside of me. I was going to put it all out on the floor, and my team came with me.

Over the final 3:29 of the second quarter the Golden Eagles (16-9, 8-6 Conference USA) rattled off a 13-2 run while hitting six straight shots.

The UTEP lead hovered around 10 for much of the third quarter and was as large as 13 in the fourth after back-to-back Katia Gallegos buckets brought the advantage to 63-50 with 6:20 left.

For Southern Miss, Domonique Davis and Fess Hawkins would then take over the game, combining to score 12 of the last 15 points for the Golden Eagles, who brought the lead down to one possession at 64-61 with 2:59 on the clock when Davis hit a 3-pointer.

Neither team would score over the next 2:13 prior to a pair of Petree free throws to push the lead out to five.

A putback by Hawkins from the left block after a Davis miss eventually evened things up at 68 with 13.6 seconds left in regulation, forcing overtime.

The Golden Eagles held UTEP without a field goal over the final 6:20 of the fourth to help stage the comeback.

Always resilient, the Miners quickly jumped on Southern Miss in the extra period, starting with Petree burying a jumper 19 seconds in, and continuing thanks to back-to-back Brenda Fontana layups that extended the lead to 78-72 with 1:29 on the clock.

Southern Miss was never able to get the lead back to one possession the rest of the way.

Fontana was outstanding off the bench in the win, tallying a career-high 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting.

In a complete team effort, five players scored in double figures. Gallegos chipped in 18, Elina Arike 16 and Avery Crouse had 10. Arike set personal bests with 10 made free throws and 13 attempts.

Celebrating her Senior Day, Teal Battle led the Miners with nine rebounds.

Davis finished with 21 points on 8-of-19 shooting from the floor to pace the visitors.

“Davis is such a good player and she is going to get hers no matter what,” Baker said. “It’s one of those things where you know she is going to try to take matters into her own hands, and that’s what she did today.”

UTEP went 27-of-64 (42 percent) overall and 9-of-25 (36 percent) on 3-pointers while hitting 23 free throws. The Golden Eagles were 31-of-72 (43 percent) from the floor and 7-of-16 (44 percent) from outside. Southern Miss remained within striking distance thanks in large part to 34 bench points.

The Miners improved to 3-1 in overtime games this season with the win.


UTEP has a gap in the schedule before heading to Birmingham to play at UAB on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. MT.

The game can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso and the UTEP Miners app with Mando Medina calling the action. The contest will also be covered live on C-USA TV.

For all things UTEP Basketball, click here; for our complete coverage of UTEP, click here.