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El Paso, TX — The UTEP women’s basketball team put up a good fight but Atlantic Coast Conference power Georgia Tech had simply too much firepower, as the Miners sustained their first loss of the year, 102-77, inside Guillermo Angulo Coliseum at the Puerto Rico Classic Friday.
Jenzel Nash (18 points), Kayla Thornton (15 points) and Cameasha Turner (career-high tying 14 points) keyed the attack for the Miners (9-1), who scored the second-most points against the Jackets (8-2) on the year. Only perennial power and then #4 Tennessee (87 points on Nov. 17) has put up more points vs. Tech in 2013.
Problems arose, though, in trying to slow down the Jackets’ one-two punch of Kaela Davis (26 points) and Tyaunna Marshall (23 points).
Davis, the number one high school recruit in the country from a year ago and the daughter of former UTEP men’s basketball star Antonio Davis, tallied 17 points in the first half while Marshall netted 16. That effort helped Tech stake a 54-38 advantage at the break.
UTEP regrouped and played even (33-33) with Tech over the first 16 minutes of the second stanza. The Jackets closed the contest out on a 15-6 push, though, to account for the 25-point margin.
Points in the paint (59-28), points off turnover (25-8) and rebounding (52-42) all favored Georgia Tech, with its athleticism and size giving the Orange and Blue fits.
The Miners did well to get to the free-throw line (21-of-31) while also connecting on 44.4 percent (8-of-18) from three-point range but a rare turnover-heavy game (20 giveaways) afforded Tech’s high-octane offense more opportunities than needed. Another factor was the Jackets crashing the offensive glass, with 23 of their 52 boards coming at that end.
The Miners enjoyed advantages in points from the bench (33-27) and fast-break points (12-7). Anete Kirsteine (eight points) and Irene Gari (seven points) contributed to the attack, but it proved to be a moot point with the way Tech was operating on offense.
The Jackets connected on 48.1 percent (39-of-81) of their shots while becoming the first Miner opponent since 2003 and just the third overall during the Keitha Adams era to top 100 points.
There was a frenetic pace to the game early, with Davis scoring the first five points. The Miners struck back and were down just by seven (29-22) with 9:47 to play in the period. Tech went on a 10-1 run, though, in a span of only 2:19, and UTEP could never recover.
The advantage grew to 23 (52-29, 2:18) late in the half but the Miners scored nine of the final 11 points down the stretch to whittle it back down to 16 heading into the locker room.
UTEP and Tech traded baskets over the majority of the second half, but the Orange and Blue couldn’t trim the deficit to fewer than 15 before the late run.
The Miners will wrap up the Puerto Rico classic against Belmont at 12:30 p.m. MST Saturday. Belmont fell to Western Kentucky, 66-46, in its first game of the event.
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