EL PASO, Texas – Katarina Zec poured in a career-high tying 22 points and Ariona Gill (13 points, nine boards) and Katia Gallegos (11 points, seven assists, six rebounds) also got after it, but UTEP was tripped up by Old Dominion, 77-68, at the Don Haskins Center Saturday afternoon.
It was a back-and-forth contest with seven lead changes and eight ties. The Miners (13-9, 6-5 C-USA) led by three (60-57) with 7:55 to play before the Monarchs (20-3, 10-1 C-USA) scored six straight to put UTEP down by three (63-60). UTEP continued to battle but could not pull back ahead, with the Monarchs making enough plays down the stretch to hold off the Orange and Blue.
“I thought we played really well today,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “I’m proud of our team and glad we put ourselves in a position to win the game against a team that is 20-3 and has won nine straight. We’re just not quite there yet. I love this team and how we battled.”
Sabine Lipe pitched in eight points in her second straight start, while Ariana Taylor provided a boost from the bench with six points and six rebounds. But it was Zec who stole the show for the home side, particularly over the first 10 minutes. Zec tallied 16 points, the second most in a frame in UTEP history, by going 6-7 from the floor (3-3 on triples) in the first quarter.
UTEP shot 39.3 percent (24-61) from the floor and had 15 assists to 13 turnovers. The Miners also won the boards (42-41), but the Monarchs overcame that. Victoria Morris and Amari Young each scored 23 points to pace a trio of players in double figures for ODU. Morris was deadly from distance with seven triples, including two during the fourth quarter.
The game was tied, 40-40, through 20 minutes of action and ODU led by just one (55-54) after three quarters of play. Four straight points for Gallegos afforded UTEP a 58-55 advantage at 8:33. It remained a 3-point cushion (60-57) with 7:55 left before consecutive triples by Morris propelled ODU back into the lead.
UTEP got a bucket from Jade Rochelle to stop the surge, and it trailed by two (67-65) after a jumper from Gill in the paint. The Miners could get no closer, though, with six straight points by the visitors dropping UTEP into an eight-point deficit (73-65) with 2:50 remaining. The Mines didn’t get closer than six from that point.
UTEP will head cross country to lock up with WKU at 5 p.m. MT/6 p.m. CT on Thursday. The game will be the first of three in a row on the road for the Orange and Blue, who will also play at Marshall (11 a.m. MT/1 p.m. ETC) on Feb. 15 and at UTSA at 6 p.m. MT/7 p.m. CT on Feb. 20.