FILE: UTEP #12 Sparkle Taylor was the 2016 C-USA Sixth Player of the Year for the regular-season champion Miners. She also helped UTEP earn runner-up honors at the 2014 WNIT and advance to the quarterfinals in 2016
Tamara Seda scored 15 points and ripped down a career-high 17 rebounds, while Sparkle Taylor paced the squad with 16 points as the Miners beat the Roadrunners 74-61 in the Don Haskins Center during a Wednesday matinee.
“Seventeen rebounds and four blocks – [Seda] was very aggressive today,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “She gave us some extra effort with those second possessions. We’re a team that needs second possessions, so I thought T’s aggressiveness really helped us.”
UTEP (3-9) stopped a four-game losing streak heading into Conference USA action, while CSU Bakersfield fell to 4-9.
“I think we won the game today because we had two really good days of practice,” Adams said. “I’m trying to get our players to really understand how important it is to prepare. I felt good going into this game because of our practices.”
CSUB started fast as it took an early 5-2 lead, but UTEP responded with a 15-0 run in the first quarter and never looked back. Taylor connected on a jumper at the 8:14 mark to start the run, while Najala Howell ended it with a jumper at the 3:17 mark. Howell poured in 15 points and recorded seven rebounds.
The Roadrunners were down as much as 13 points (24-11) at the end of the first quarter, but cut the deficit to two points (54-52) at the 7:37mark of the fourth quarter. The Miners stepped up their game and tallied the next nine points to go up 63-52 with 5:58 left in the contest to seal the victory.
“In the fourth quarter, we got into a half-court trap,” Adams said. “[CSUB] had some momentum going there, but we got some traps and some steals. We were able to manage the game down the stretch and hit our free throws.”
UTEP led 54-47 after three periods and outscored its opponent 20-14 in the fourth stanza.
The Miners outrebounded the Roadrunners 47-37, while the Orange and Blue hit 81 percent of their free throws (22-of-27). UTEP forced five steals and scored 14 points off turnovers.
Faith Cook led the Miners with seven dimes and scored nine points, while Ax Bernard scored 11 points. Lulu Mckinney and Zuzanna Puc each tallied four points.
“We needed this win [going into conference play],” Adams said. “I think the really good thing about the first [half of the season] is we played five power five schools and we put this team though a challenge.”
UTEP will bring in the New Year as it hosts C-USA rival UTSA. Tipoff is slated for 2:05 p.m. on Sunday.