EL PASO, Texas – Adhel Tac drained a go-ahead 3-pointer with just over a minute to play, while Avery Crouse and N’Yah Boyd combined to nail four clutch free throws down the stretch as UTEP held on the defeat NM State, 65-61, on Wednesday night in the Haskins Center.

The Miners (6-1) built a 14-point lead in the third period, but the Aggies (2-4) were relentless and rallied to take the lead late in the contest.

NM State shot 52.0 percent from the field but was held to 4-of-11 shooting from 3-point land. UTEP shot 80.0 precent (16-20) from the free throw line, while going 7-for-22 from downtown.

“That was a heck of a college basketball game. That’s the way that game is supposed to go. Rivalry games are supposed to go down like that, whether [UTEP] won or [NM State] won it,” UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker said. “We built a lead I’m proud of, but we knew very well that they would mount a comeback because that’s a team with a lot of pride and they are very well coached. [NM State] played well and was formidable down the stretch. But I’m proud how our kids responded by making timely shots.”

The Aggies took that one-point lead (59-58) on a Molly Kaiser layup following a turnover with 1:45 left in the contest. Kaiser followed by drawing an offensive foul, but missed the first free throw on a 1-and-1. Tac, who scored seven points and led the Miners with eight boards, pulled up and splashed a 3-point bucket at the 1:18 mark to put the Miners up for good at 61-59. Tac followed the trey by grabbing her eighth rebound that led to Crouse getting fouled and making both free throws to make the count 63-59. Following an Ashlee Strawbridge driving layup to get within a pair of points (63-61), Boyd answered by calmly stroking a pair of free throws to seal the victory.

“Hats off to Adel Tac hitting that 3-pointer – that kid can shoot,” Baker said. “She was one of the best players coming out of the state of Texas coming out of high school. It wasn’t because she can post up, but she can also shoot the three. Down the stretch, N’Yah Boyd made clutch free throws and took care of the ball when we were trying to run down the clock. When we had to get a stop and rebound late, we did that. We fought through a little bit of adversity and came out with a win.”

Crouse led the way with 17 points as she finished 3-for-6 from downtown. Crouse paced the Miners with five dimes and three steals, while adding five rebounds to her stat line. Boyd finished with 15 points, shooting 3-of-4 from beyond the arc and adding a 4-for-4 effort from the charity stripe. Boyd chipped in with four assists.

UTEP overcame an early 8-0 run and answered that with its own 14-0 run. With the game tied 8-8, Eliana Cabral tallied back-to-back blocked shots on a pair of misses by the Aggies’ Tayelin Grays that resulted in a Crouse layup off an assist by Elina Arike that gave the Miners a 10-8 edge. Crouse capped the 14-0 run on a pullup jumper. UTEP would take a 16-13 advantage into the second quarter. Crouse led the charge with eight points on 3-of-3 shooting to go along with a pair of made free throws.

Boyd came up with eight points of her own in the second quarter, while Thaniya Marks and Cabral each tallied four points in the second stanza. The Miners edged out the Aggies 17-14. The Aggies got within two points (25-23) at the 3:28 mark following a jumper by Fama Thiam, but the Miners used an 8-4 spurt down the stretch to take a 33-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.

UTEP opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run led by Adel Tac’s four points. The Miners built their lead to 41-27 early in the third period. However, NM State battled back to cut the deficit to three points (48-45) late in the third. The Aggies outscored the Miners 18-15 in the third, and cutting the lead to three points (48-45) going into the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter was back-and-forth as the Aggies took their first lead at 53-52 after a driving layup by Molly Kaiser. Arike pulled down an offensive board after a missed layup by Crouse and converted a second-chance pullup jumper to give UTEP a one-point edge (54-53). Crouse made up for her miss and drained a 3-point bucket at the 3:44 mark that put the Miners up 57-53. The Aggies mustered up a comeback to take a 59-58 lead, but Tac’s three ball essentially ended the rally.

Fama Thiam led the Aggies with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Kaiser added 15 points and a team-high three assists.

UTEP tallied 17 assists, the second most this season, while tallying eight steals. Jazion Jackson tallied nine points and five boards, while Soleil Montrose added two points. Cabral led the team with two blocked shot and scored four points off the bench in over 20 minutes of action. Arike played over 20 minutes and recorded five points and five board. Erin Wilson scored a bucket, while Marks added four points.

UTEP will hit the road to play at Mountain West Conference’s Air Force on Sunday, Dec. 4. The Miners and Eagles are set to tip off at 1 p.m. MT in Colorado Springs. The contest will be streamed on the Mountain West Network.

New Mexico State will play in a tournament in California over the weekend, first vs. San Diego on Saturday, then vs. Idaho on Sunday.