POSTED: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - 10:46pm
UPDATED: Thursday, January 16, 2014 - 3:42pm
(El Paso) — The UTEP women’s basketball sustained a hard-fought 69-58 loss at Middle Tennessee Wednesday evening. The Miners (13-3, 2-1 Conference USA) shot a better percentage from the floor (42.9 to 39.0) while also outrebounding (43-36) the Blue Raiders (14-3, 3-0 Conference USA) but were plagued by an inability to take care of the basketball and foul woes.
UTEP committed a season-high 25 turnovers, which led to 27 points for the home side, while also being tagged for 28 fouls. Eight of the giveaways were the direct result of offensive fouls. Middle Tennessee connected on 17-of-32 tries at the charity stripe. It was whistled for 17 infractions, and the Miners went 9-of-17 at the free-throw line.
“It was disappointing tough loss,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “We played hard but gotta take better care of the basketball. The foul trouble hurt us tonight with two players (Kayla Thornton & Chrishauna Parker) both fouling out.”
Kayla Thornton posted a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) before fouling out for the first time since her freshman season and the second occasion of her career to key the efforts. Fellow senior Kelli Willingham led all Miners with 16 points while Jenzel Nash (12 points) and Kristine Vitola (10 points) also reached double figures in scoring.
UTEP held high-powered Middle Tennessee, which won its 13th straight game, to 39.0 percent (23-of-59) from the floor. Aiding in that figure was a 6-of-27 effort (22.2 percent) effort by the Blue Raiders from beyond-the-arc. Ebony Rowe poured in 23 points, including 16 in the second half, while grabbing 10 rebounds to pace her squad.
The Orange and Blue started strong, bolting out to a 17-9 lead with 11:39 to play in the first half. Middle Tennessee fought back to trim the lead to one (21-20) with 7:40 remaining but the Miners pushed it back to seven with 2:53 to play (31-24) after a triple from Thornton.
The pendulum of momentum started to swing back to Middle Tennessee late in the period, though, especially after Thornton went to the bench with an injury and her second foul. Thornton had leapt to get an offensive rebound before becoming entangled with the Middle Tennessee player underneath her.
The Blue Raiders scored the final four points of the period and opened up the second half on an 8-0 run. Thornton was reinserted into the line-up but the damage had been done. UTEP continued to battle but could never recover from the surge, as it was unable to get closer than six points the rest of the way out.
The Miners will look to bounce back when they play host to Charlotte at 7 p.m. MST Saturday.