COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Avery Crouse led UTEP with 17 points and Erin Wilson added a season-high 12 points, but the Miners came up short during a 63-60 setback at Air Force on Sunday afternoon.
Crouse nailed a 3-pointer and Jazion Jackson followed with a free throw that gave UTEP (6-2) a four-point advantage (56-52) with just over four minutes to play, the largest for the Miners in the contest. But Air Force (4-4) won its first ever game over UTEP after Kamri Heath hit a pair of free throws to give her squad the go ahead lead 57-56.
The Falcons built the lead to three points, but Jazion Jackson’s layup got UTEP within a point (61-60) with 40 seconds remaining in the game. Eliana Cabral then tallied a steal with 15 seconds left, but a Jackson offensive foul driving to the basket gave the ball right back to Air Force. Jo Huntimer converted a pair of free throws to build to lead back to three. UTEP had a chance with 2.6 seconds remaining, but Crouse’s last-second desperation 3-ball came up short.
Crouse matched her total from Wednesday’s performance, tying her season high in points (17) as she shot an efficient 7-for-10 from the field. Her made field goals (seven) were also a season best. Crouse added a block, steal and an assist to go along with four boards. Crouse’s 34 points the last two games are the most during a two-game span since the 2020-21 season when she tallied 17 points in back-to-back contests on Jan. 22 and 23.
Adhel Tac tallied eight rebounds for the second consecutive contest, while chipping in with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting. Elina Arike, who made her first start since the season opener, matched UTEP’s high with eight rebounds and tallied seven points with two blocked shots.
Wilson went 2-for-3 from beyond the arc, while she added three boards and a steal in 24 minutes off the bench.
Air Force outscored UTEP 16-13 in the first quarter. The Falcons led by seven points on a pair of occasions. Following a jumper by Heath, Air Force took a 14-7 lead at the 2:31 mark of the first. But the Miners used a 6-2 spurt on a pair of 3-pointers to get within three points. Crouse hit the first at the 1:27 mark and Wilson drained another with 37 seconds remaining. Crouse had six points during the first quarter.
The Miners fell by as many as nine points (22-13) at the 8:08 mark of the second quarter. Wilson answered with a driving layup to cut the deficit, while she also converted back-to-back buckets – a 3-pointer and layup – at the 3:53 mark to make the count 26-23. Air Force took a 31-27 lead into the locker room at the half.
UTEP outscored AF 16-15 to cut the deficit to three points heading into the fourth quarter. Crouse and Tac each score six points during the stanza.
The Miners, after trailing the whole game, finally took their first lead. Freshman Soleil Montrose, following an offensive board by Boyd, converted a second-chance driving layup at the 7:20 mark that gave UTEP a 49-48 advantage. After UTEP took a four-point lead (56-52), Kayla Pilson’s layup and Nikki McDonald’s made free throw cut the deficit to one point (56-55) before Heath secured the win by hitting her two free throws to make the count 57-56.
Pilson led AF with 17 points, while McDonald (14 points) and Madison Smith (13) also hit double figures.
Air Force shot 44.1 percent (26-59) from the field to UTEP’s 41 percent (22-54). The Miners hit 6-of-16 from downtown, while AF shot 3-11. UTEP outrebounded AF, 36-33, and blocked a season-high five shots.
UTEP will continue its road trip with a quick ride up I-10 for the rematch with NM State in Las Cruces on Dec. 13 (6 p.m.), while concluding the road swing at LA Tech on Dec. 18 (1 p.m. MT) to open Conference USA action.