Kayla Thornton (12), Anete Steinberga (11), Kristine Vitola (11) and Kelli Willingham (10) all reached double figures in scoring to help lead the UTEP women’s basketball team to a 69-60 win against St. Mary’s (Texas) in an exhibition game at the Don Haskins Center Saturday afternoon.
The Miners led for most of the game, and were up by 17 (61-44) with five minutes to play. The Rattlers made a late run but could never cut the deficit to smaller than seven down the stretch.
UTEP forced the visitors into 26 turnovers while keeping them to 38.1 (24-of-63) percent from the floor.
UTEP finished at 31.3 percent (21-of-67) from the floor, with an off shooting night on treys (3-18, 16.7 percent) affecting that figure.
Saidah Zuberi Allen, a freshman transfer from Fresno State, contributed seven points off the bench while sophomore Chrishauna Parker pitched in six points in a starting capacity. Thornton led the charge in rebounding with 10 to notch a double-double while Vitola fell just shy with nine.
Steinberga snagged six and Parker secured five. Both Willingham and freshman Cameasha Turner accounted for four rebounds. UTEP took good care of the basketball with 15 assists.
Marring the Miners’ victory was sophomore Jenzel Nash leaving the game midway through the first half with a left-knee injury.
“I respect St. Mary’s and give them credit,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “They always come in and compete extremely hard. They were very competitive. There a lot of areas we need to work and improve on.”
UTEP scored the first four points of the game and led 6-3 after a lay-up from Steinberga. The Rattlers, who were paced by Jackie Woods’ game-high 18 points, responded and used a run to grab an 18-14 edge with 8:20 to play in the period. UTEP countered with eight straight points on the way to regaining a lead it would never relinquish.
The Miners were up 31-23 with 4:12 left in the first half before St. Mary’s closed it to 31-28 at the half.
The two teams traded scores out of the locker room but UTEP picked it up at both ends. The Miners ran off nine straight points to push their advantage out to double digits. They would maintain that cushion until the waning minutes of the tilt, but never were truly threatened.
UTEP will open up its 2012-13 campaign in earnest when it plays host to Loyola Marymount at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10.