UTEP rides big second half en route to win at Tulane
POSTED: Saturday, February 1, 2014 - 4:02pm
UPDATED: Saturday, February 1, 2014 - 10:59pm
El Paso, TX — Kayla Thornton put up big numbers for her 12th double-double (29 points, 18 rebounds) on the year, and UTEP played an incredible second half to post a convincing 86-72 win at Tulane Saturday afternoon.
The Miners (17-4, 6-2 C-USA) outscored the Green Wave (15-6, 6-2 C-USA) ,58-37, over the final 20 minutes on the way to extending their win streak to four.
“We didn’t play very well in the first half,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “At half time we felt like we were very fortunate to be where we were. It was a tremendous second half. Our defense set the tone, and I’m proud of the team.”
Adams, who recorded career win number 350, made some adjustments during the break. UTEP went to a three point-guard line-up while also mixing up its looks defensively, and it paid off in a big way.
UTEP nailed 58.8 percent (20-of-34) from the floor in the second half to finish with a solid 44.6 percent (29-of-65) overall for the game. It had success both inside and out, with seven of its 11 three pointers (tied eighth most in school history) coming in the second stanza.
Kelli Willingham (14 points), Kristine Vitola (13 points) and Stacie Telles (11 points) all joined Thornton in double figures while Jenzel Nash pitched in eight points and freshman Sparkle Taylor added six points and six boards.
UTEP’s defense was also a factor. Tulane, the top three-point shooting team in C-USA, went just 3-of-27 from distance as the Orange and Blue did a good job of closing out on shooters. Overall Tulane was held to 36.0 percent (27-of-75) from the floor, well below its average.
The Miners won the rebounding battle (53-40), with Thornton, Chrishauna Parker (nine boards), Vitola (seven rebounds) and Sparkle Taylor (six) getting after it on the glass.
The Green Wave were up 35-28 at the break, aided by the Miners committing 15 turnovers which resulted in 17 points. Factor in an off shooting period (9-of-31, 29 percent), and UTEP appeared to be in good shape to be trailing by only seven entering the locker room.
That proved to be the case, with the Orange and Blue using a 10-2 run to start the second half to trim the deficit to just one (38-37) with 16:59 to play. The two sides traded blows over the next eight minutes, and UTEP led 56-55 with 8:12 to play.
UTEP found another gear, though, peeling off 11 straight points to blow things wide open. The Green Wave never recovered, with UTEP extending its advantage to as many as 18.
It was only fitting that a big run proved to be decisive, given that the first half was full of them.
Homestanding Tulane bolted out to a 12-3 lead before UTEP rallied into the lead on the strength of a 19-4 push. The Green Wave then regained momentum by virtue of a 19-6 surge over the final nine minutes of the period to claim the aforementioned 35-28 cushion at the break.
UTEP will be back in action with a pair of home games in the coming week. The Miners will play host to Louisiana Tech at 7:05 p.m. MST Wednesday (tickets $5 adults & $3 kids) while welcoming FIU to the Don Haskins Center on Feb. 8. All fans who wear pink to the FIU contest will receive free admission.