BIRMINGHAM, Al. – Avery Crouse (11 points), Katarina Zec (11 points) and Ariona Gill (10 points) all hit double figures in scoring, but an off shooting day loomed large in UTEP’s 63-51 setback at UAB Saturday afternoon.
The Miners (12-8, 5-4 C-USA) finished at 29.5 percent from the floor (18-61), which was hindered by shooting 18.5 percent (5-27) over the first 20 minutes. The Blazers (15-7, 7-3 C-USA) capitalized, putting UTEP in a 17-point hole (36-19) at the half. The Miners fought back after the break to get within eight (55-47) with four minutes left, but they couldn’t complete the comeback.
The nation’s second-best 3-point shooting team lived up to its billing by connecting on 43.5 percent (10-23) from beyond-the-arc. Overall UAB finished at 47.1 percent (24-51) from the floor. Rachel Childress was the catalyst with 26 points on 10-13 shooting, including 4-5 from distance.
Still UTEP’s defensive efforts were to be lauded after holding the top scoring offense in the league to 15 points shy of its seasonal average (78).
“I was really pleased with our defense,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “We really defended well. We held them to 63, but as luck would have it, in the first half we couldn’t throw it in the ocean. That’s how it’s been for our team lately.”
UTEP took good care of the ball with a season-low eight turnovers and also drilled 75.0 percent (12-16) at the charity stripe, but those weren’t enough to make up for shortcomings in other areas.
UAB jumped out to a 7-0 advantage three minutes into the contest before Ariana Taylor knocked down a jumper to get the Miners on the board. The Blazers scored the next four points in the game to make it a double-digit differential, which it remained through 10 minutes of action (16-4).
Arina Khlopkova drilled a jumper at the onset of the second frame only to have the Blazers counter with six unanswered points. After the deficit swelled to 17 (24-7), the Miners used a pair of free throws from Crouse and a triple by Zec to trim the differential to 12 (24-12). UAB had another response, and the Miners trailed by 17 (36-19) at the half.
The deficit was still 17 (45-28) midway through the third quarter before UTEP started to make a move. The Miners chipped away to get it down to 11 (50-39) before settling for trailing by 13 (52-39) heading to the final frame.
UTEP opened up the fourth quarter on an 8-3 surge to trail by single digits (55-47) for the initial occasion since the opening frame. Childress drilled a jumper to reinstate a double-digit margin for the home side, and UTEP could get no closer the rest of the way.
UTEP will return home to play host to Charlotte at 7 p.m. MT Thursday. Fans are encouraged to wear pink to raise awareness in the battle against breast cancer.
For complete coverage of UTEP women’s basketball, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPWBB (Twitter), @utepwbb (Instagram) and on Facebook or visit the official home of UTEP Athletics.