Katarina Zec – photo by Michael Reese
UTEP forced 19 turnovers and held Tulsa to 31.6 percent (18-57) from the floor but it had some struggles of its own in a 58-51 home setback to Tulsa at the Don Haskins Center Sunday afternoon.
The Miners (7-4) committed 16 of their 22 turnovers in the first half and finished 13-25 at the charity stripe. UTEP connected on 34.0 percent (18-53) from the floor, which was hindered by going 2-11 (18.2 percent) in the final frame. Yet in spite of those challenges, the Orange and Blue went toe-to-toe with former WAC and Conference USA foe Tulsa (5-8).
There were seven ties and 11 lead changes, and UTEP led by three (46-43) with seven minutes to go. It wasn’t to be, though, with the Golden Hurricane peeling off an 8-0 run over the next five minutes. The Miners stopped the surge with a pair of Katia Gallegos free throws, but couldn’t get any closer than three points down the stretch.
Katarina Zec tallied 13 points to pace the squad while Gallegos netted 10 points and a game-high five assists. Ariona Gill flirted with a double-double (nine points, eight rebounds) while also tallying a trio of steals. Ariana Taylor put up seven points in her first start of the season.
“This was a bad loss for our program,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “We just didn’t show up today. We had 16 turnovers in the first half and missed 12 free throws. We just weren’t ourselves today. I can’t figure out why. This was a game we should have won and should have won going away. We just didn’t do it. When you play like that, you really don’t deserve to win.”
Kendrian Elliott posted a double-double (18 points, 12 rebounds) to pace the visitors. She was joined in double figures by Maddie Bittle.
Zec was locked in early, tallying six points in the first six minutes to help launch UTEP to an 8-2 advantage at 3:54 of the first quarter. The Miners remained up by six (13-7) with 1:38 left in the frame before Tulsa got a lay-up and free throw to cut the UTEP lead in half (13-10) through 10 minutes of action.
After the Orange and Blue pushed the differential back to five (20-15) with six minutes left in the half, Tulsa countered with a 13-2 push to put UTEP down by six. Zec beat the buzzer with a lay-up to trim the deficit to four (28-24) heading into the locker room. The Miners continued to fight back in the third frame, pulling even at 41 heading to the fourth quarter.
It was back-and-forth in the final frame before Tulsa used the aforementioned run to pull away.
The Miners will open Conference USA play at home against FIU at 7 p.m. MT on Thursday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids and may be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234.
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