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El Paso, TX — Senior Kayla Thornton notched her 12th double-double (21 points, 16 rebounds) of the year, and UTEP made all the hustle plays in a 67-56 road conquest of UTSA at the Convocation Center Saturday afternoon.
In a game in which knocking down shots was a challenge for both sides (UTEP 23-of-69, 33.3 percent & UTSA 20-of-59, 33.3 percent), the difference came on the glass. The Miners (15-4, 4-2 C-USA) crushed the Roadrunners (11-8, 2-4 C-USA) on the glass (57-36), aided by 23 offensive boards. A direct result of that advantage was second-chance points, which also favored UTEP (19-5).
The Miners, winners of two straight, never trailed in the tilt. UTEP led by eight at the half (34-26), and the home side never got closer than four the rest of the way out. The margin ballooned to as many as 17 (59-42) with 5:19 left before a late push made things a little more aesthetically pleasing for the Roadrunners.
Thornton put up big numbers to set the tone for her squad, but she had plenty of help. Kristine Vitola nearly posted a double-double (15 points, nine rebounds) while also blocking three shots and fellow senior Kelli Willingham tallied eight points, helped by two triples.
UTEP also received a fine contribution off the bench from freshman Sparkle Taylor. The native of Flint, Mich., set career highs for both points (nine) and rebounds (seven) in an effective 16 minutes of action. Her efforts helped the Miners hold a 17-9 edge in points by the bench.
With shots from the outside struggling to fall, UTEP pounded the Roadrunners down low. The Miners scored 32 of their 67 points in the paint while also knocking down 18-of-24 (75.0 percent) at the charity stripe.
Another factor was making smart basketball plays, with the Miners registering 16 assists on 23 field goals. Several scores came on basket cuts, with Chrishauna Parker racking up five assists. Stacie Telles also added three helpers while grabbing four rebounds. Most importantly for Telles was the fact that she played turnover-free basketball for 20 minutes.
Jenzel Nash also got involved across the board with three points, five boards and a pair of assists while flying to the ball during UTEP’s full-court press.
The Miners scored the first four points of the game before UTSA countered with a 4-0 run of its own to account for the first and only tie of the tilt. Things remained close for a few more minutes before a 10-0 UTEP run made it 19-9 with 9:07 to play in the first half.
The cushion was eight at the break, and the Miners had an answer for every Roadrunner surge in the second half.
UTEP will look to push its winning streak to three when it plays host to Marshall at 7:05 p.m. MST Wednesday. Tickets are only $5 for adults or $3 for kids. Fans are also encourage to attend the Keitha Adams show (5-6 p.m. Tortuga Sports Lounge on Thursday).
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