Kayla Thornton (15 points & 14 rebounds) and Chrishauna Parker (17 points & 12 rebounds) both registered double-doubles, and UTEP ran its unbeaten streak to seven with an 83-56 victory against UTPA at the Don Haskins Center Sunday afternoon.
The Miners (12-1) never trailed in the contest, and they used an 18-4 run early in the second half to put it out of reach against the upset-minded Broncos (5-9). The effort allows UTEP to set the school record for most wins (12) before the start of conference play while also keeping it undefeated (9-0) at home on the year.
Additionally the Orange and Blue keep pace with the 2006-07 squad for the best record (12-1) through 13 games in program history. That team rocketed to a 14-1 start before wrapping up the first 20+ win season at the school with a mark of 22-8.
“We weren’t on our ‘A’ game but we kicked it in for 15 minutes,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “We understand we will have to play 40 minutes in conference play to get results.”
UTEP connected on 40.3 percent (29-of-72) from the floor while finishing with 18 assists. Parker set the scoring tone with a game-high and career-best 17 points while also adding four helpers. She did ample damage at the free-throw line, going 9-of-10.
While Thornton and Parker stole the show, other Miners aided in the cause. Freshman Saidah Zuberi Allen came off the bench to tally a career-best 12 points while also grabbing eight rebounds. Senior Anete Steinberga finished with the identical stat line while Kelli Willingham (eight points) and Irene Gari (seven points) also got in on the scoring.
Willingham tallied five assists to just one turnover while also recording three steals. Zuberi Allen had four thefts, also a personal best.
The play of Zuberi Allen was key in the Miners’ reserves tallying a season-best 24 points.
After a quick shooting start, the Broncos cooled off in the second half to conclude the contest at 35.0 percent (21-of-60). UTPA was forced into making 23 turnovers, which led to 26 points for the home side.
UTEP’s athleticism and size proved to be a big factor in the contest, with the Miners winning the rebounding battle (55-35) while also enjoying an advantage for points in the paint (36-14) and on second-chance opportunities (18-2).
The outcome in each of those areas was reflected at the charity stripe, where UTEP had a sizeable advantage. The Miners were 20-of-27 at the free-throw line while the Broncos connected on 5-of-8.
The two teams traded baskets early on before the Miners rattled off five in a road to grab a 9-4 edge with 16:06 left in the period. UTPA countered with a 5-0 push of its own to forge the third and final tie of the tilt.
Willingham made it short-lived by drilling triples on consecutive possessions, sparking a 12-3 run to propel the Miners into a 25-12 lead with 9:26 to play in the first half.
The visitors used a timeout to regroup & whittled the deficit down to three (27-24) with 6:50 left in the first half. UTEP re-instated a nine-point cushion (33-24) but the visitors struck back with a late push to get within four (37-33) heading into halftime.
It was back and forth over the first five minutes of the second half, with the Miners’ lead remaining at four (43-39) with 15:07 left in the period. UTEP stayed committed to its gameplan, though, and it paid dividends.
UTEP scored 18 of the next 22 points in the game to reestablish a double-digit lead, and UTPA never recovered.
The Miners will now have a nine-day layoff to prepare for the start of league play. UTEP initiates Conference USA action on the road at Tulsa at 6 p.m. MST Jan. 9.