POSTED: Saturday, December 10, 2011 - 9:54pm
UPDATED: Saturday, December 10, 2011 - 11:38pm
Stifling defense, a quality effort at the free-throw line and baskets at key times carried the UTEP women’s basketball team past New Mexico, 53-43, on the road Saturday afternoon. The Miners move to 8-0 on the year to secure the best start in program history while the Lobos slip to 3-6 on the campaign.
Gloria Brown (12 points, 7 rebounds), Briana Green (10 points), Kelli Willingham (10 points) and Kristine Vitola (six points, 10 rebounds) led the way for the Miners, who picked up their first win at The Pit since the 1994-95 season to stand at fourth all time (4-20). Additionally, UTEP is 2-0 on the road for the first time since 2006-07 and the third occasion overall. It has never posted three straight road triumphs to open a year.
Green tallied seven of her points during an important 15-5 run midway through the first half, allowing UTEP to surge into the lead (17-12) with 7:57 to play. The Miners would not trail from that point on. They were up, 24-22, at the half and enjoyed an advantage of at least five points over the final seven minutes of regulation.
UNM shot just 25.5 percent from the floor and was harassed into committing 22 turnovers. The Lobos did win the rebounding battle (47-40), mainly due to Porche Torrance grabbing 18 boards. Caroline Durbin paced UNM with 13 points while Lauren Taylor added eight points.
“It was a great defensive effort today,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “We kept our composure on the road. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but the defense and composure was key.”
UTEP finished at 30.4 percent from the floor (17-56), which was impacted by going 4-of-21 from three-point range. The Miners found their stroke a bit in the second half by hitting 35.7 percent, which helped them out-score the Lobos 29-21 over the final 20 minutes.
Free-throws also were a factor, with the Orange and Blue sinking 75 percent (15-of-20) at the charity stripe. UNM made just 60.9 percent (14-of-23) of its tries from the line, though.
Despite a loud crowd and intense man-to-man defense, the Miners had only 14 turnovers. Two of those were on three-second violations while another was an in-bounds infraction with the game well in hand.
UTEP’s bench out-scored the Lobos’ reserves, 36-10 while dominating down low with a +10 differential (24-14) for points in the paint.
The Miners took a while to get things going offensively, misfiring on their first 11 shots. They didn’t get on the board until a Brown post move with 13:40 to play in the first half. The offensive drought didn’t harm the visitors, though, as smothering defense kept UNM to just three points during that time frame.
Taylor propelled the Lobos to their largest advantage of the game (7-2) with 12:49 to play thanks to a rare four-point play, but the Miners kept calm. Brown made a lay-up and a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession to pull the Miners within one (7-6) with 11:39.
The two teams traded baskets and free throws over the next couple of minutes, before UTEP ran off eight straight to grab the lead for good.
In the second half the game was tied a couple of times early on, but the Miners never let the Lobos regain the advantage. A mini 5-0 spurt, on a three-pointer by Erika Warren and a Vitola lay-up in transition put UTEP up, 37-30 with 11:50 left, and UNM never was closer than four from that point on.
The Miners will return to action when they play host to Northern Colorado at 7:05 p.m. MST Tuesday.