Miners earn huge home win over SMU
El Paso, TX — Kayla Thornton (21 points, 10 rebounds) and Chrishauna Parker (12 points, 15 rebounds) recorded double-doubles while Jenzel Nash provided a spark with 19 points off the bench to help lead UTEP past long-time rival SMU, 76-71, at the Don Haskins Center Saturday afternoon.
The Mustangs (8-2) jumped out to a double-digit lead (14-4) six minutes into the contest before the Miners (8-0), off to their second-best start in school history, came alive. UTEP used a 31-14 run to carry a 35-28 cushion into halftime. The Miners stayed hot to start the second half, with a 12-4 surge giving them their largest lead of the contest at 47-32 with 15:29 to play.
SMU wasn’t done, though, especially not with Keena Mays at its disposal. Mays, who finished with a game-high 34 points, refused to let her squad go down without a fight. It whittled the deficit down to two (56-54) with 7:28 to play, but UTEP would not relinquish the advantage.
Free throws (25-of-37) and winning the rebounding battle (47-45) proved vital, as did committing only 15 turnovers against a well-executed press by the visitors.
“We beat a good team in SMU,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “Rebounding was huge. We weathered the storm early, kept hanging in there. It’s a really quality win, and I’m very proud of our team.”
Senior Kristine Vitola (eight points, nine rebounds) buoyed Nash, Parker and Thornton while logging 34 minutes of action. Stacie Telles chipped in six points before fouling out while freshman Sparkle Taylor finished with five, including a jumper to beat the first-half buzzer.
While the Miners finished at 35.9 percent from the floor, they were able to pull out the victory thanks to the aforementioned efforts at the charity stripe and on the glass. Parker was the key cog in both of those areas, securing 15 rebounds while also going 10-of-12 on free throws.
The junior dished out a squad-best four assists and committed just three turnovers while running the point for a good chunk of the game due to foul problems for both Cameasha Turner and Telles.
Akil Simpson (17 points and 15 rebounds) did her best to support Mays, but no other SMU player finished with more than five points. The Miners’ depth was a big factor in the game, evidenced by the 29-7 advantage in bench points.
UTEP will put its focus on the classroom with final exams this week before returning to action at home against Southeastern Louisiana on Sunday, Dec. 15.