Kelli Willingham poured in a season-high 18 points to help lead the UTEP women’s basketball team to a 68-48 triumph at Loyola Marymount Saturday afternoon. The Miners (10-0) remain undefeated on the year, and are off to their first 3-0 road start in program history.
UTEP bolted out to a 15-2 lead, which was capped by an Erika Warren three pointer with 15:02 to play in the first half. The Lions (3-7) fought back to trim the deficit to four on a couple of occasions but the Miners used a 14-6 surge to carry a 37-25 advantage into the locker room. LMU never got closer than eight from that point on, with the Orange and Blue putting it on cruise control.
“We got after it defensively,” Adams said. “It was a good road win for us. They played hard and kept coming at us. We had some big baskets and kept it under control.”
UTEP hit on 48.1 percent (26-of-54) of its shots, including a season-best 53.8 (7-of-13) from three-point range. Willingham led with the charge, which was aided by going 4-of-7 on triples. Gloria Brown came off the bench to pitch in 11 points while Kayla Thornton and Kristine Vitola each finished with eight points and five boards. Briana Green tallied seven points, as did Erika Warren in her first start of the season.
It was smothering defense by the Miners, who have now held a school-record eight straight foes to fewer than 55 points. LMU made just 30.2 percent (16-of-53) from the floor, and it committed 15 turnovers. Alex Cowling posted 22 points to pace LMU, but she had to take 15 shots to do so. No other Lion had more than eight points.
UTEP out-scored the home side, 28-18, in points in the paint, 15-10 off turnovers, 14-8 in second-chance opportunities while also enjoying an edge (22-6) in points from the bench.
The Miners relied upon good ball movement to pick apart the LMU defense, with 17 assists on 26 field-goals made. UTEP committed only 13 turnovers despite the Lions pressing for a good portion of the game.
It was a motivated Miner squad at the onset of the contest, with the visitors scoring eight straight as part of the aforementioned 15-2 push out of the gates. LMU regrouped and tried to make it a game, and it managed to reduce the Orange and blue edge to four (23-19) with 4:55 left in the first half.
UTEP countered with six straight points, with a jumper from Willingham, a lay-up from Thornton and a long two by Green re-instating a double-digit advantage. The two teams traded blows down the stretch, with UTEP heading to halftime with that 12-point cushion.
LMU tallied the first four points of the second half to get within eight (37-29) but the Miners ran off seven in a row to wipe out any aspirations of a comeback. The Lions could not get any closer than 10 from that point, with the final eight points of the game being scored by the Orange and Blue.
UTEP will be back in action for the final time before the holiday break when it plays host to UC Santa Barbara at 7:05 p.m. MST Wednesday.