EL PASO, Texas – UTEP put the clamps on Charlotte late on the way to a 68-60 win on Monday in the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners (12-4, 5-2 C-USA) held the 49ers (7-9, 3-4 C-USA) to just 3-of-13 shooting over the final 10 minutes to outscore the visitors 18-9 in the fourth. UTEP had entered the quarter trailing 51-50 before the late surge.
Charlotte scored first to start the fourth on a Jada McMillian layup that pushed the lead to 53-50.
From that moment on, the Miners would claim control of the game, scoring 10 unanswered points to build a 60-53 advantage with 4:10 left.
As part of the stretch, Adhel Tac netted six of her career-high 17 points. Tac went on to finish the game 8-of-15 from the floor with six rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot.
UTEP would not trail again, as Charlotte was never able to cut the deficit back down to a possession.
The closest the 49ers would get was at 62-58 with 1:58 on the clock following a Jacee Busick jumper.
In response, the Miners iced the game at the free throw line, scoring the next five points at the charity stripe to rebuild the lead out to nine.
N’Yah Boyd hit four of those free throws as part of a 17-point performance in which she also had six rebounds.
Monday marked a continuation of a season that has featured numerous quality fourth quarter performances.
“We just know that we have got to get it done,” Boyd said. “When the fourth quarter comes and it’s a tight game, we have just got to do everything we can to get it done. It should come sooner, but hey, we take what we can get.”
It was a quality effort in many ways for the Miners.
“Just a hard-fought win today,” UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker said. “A team win against a very good and tough team. You can ignore the records in Conference USA. Throw them out the window. Charlotte has a great team, phenomenal. They just have so many ways to score. They are really hard to guard. I’m proud of our team for outrebounding them the way that we did with 22 offensive rebounds and 21 defensively. But most especially, holding them to nine points in the fourth quarter is really hard to do at this level against such good teams. We kept saying it was going to come down to stops and rebounds, and it really kind of did.”
Tac was a key part of the game right out of the chutes, helping UTEP jump out to an 8-2 lead after she scored six of the first eight points.
Charlotte took its first lead at 12-10 on a Busick triple from the left-wing that beat the shot clock buzzer with 3:23 in the first.
After having trailed up until that point, the 49ers remained in the lead throughout the remainder of the first thanks to a 14-2 run that turned a six-point deficit into a 16-10 lead with 1:48 on the clock.
The contest remained a two-possession game or less over the next two quarters, as the back-and-forth affair saw neither team build much separation until the Miners did so late.
“They (Charlotte) started off shooting extraordinarily well,” Baker said. “We watched the film, and we know the stats, that’s not really who they are. I think they were just trying to rise to the occasion, and you’ve got to give them all the credit in the world for that. But if you just keep guarding, hopefully the law of averages will come back. You just keep grinding. One of the best examples, I don’t think we turned them over as many times as we would have liked to, but we got a crucial 10-second count (with 5:44 left) because we pressed the whole game and kept grinding.”
To start the second half, the 49ers seemed to have positive momentum on their side after Dazia Lawrence scored back-to-back baskets in the first 49 seconds to make it 42-36 in favor of Charlotte.
Following a Boyd basket that brought the lead down to four, the Miners called a timeout that would start to change the feel of the game.
From that point on, UTEP forced seven Charlotte turnovers in just under five minutes to quickly erase the lead, going ahead initially on an Avery Crouse 3-pointer and ending the run with Elina Arike’s driving layup in the lane that made it 46-42 with 4:40 left in the quarter.
The Miners went 25-of-60 (41.7 percent) from the field and Charlotte went 24-of-53 (45.3 percent) overall and 5-of-12 (41.7 percent) from the perimeter.
UTEP dominated the battle of the boards, outrebounding the 49ers 43-27 on the afternoon and grabbing a season-high 22 offensive rebounds. As a result of the offensive rebounds, the Miners posted an 18-5 edge in second-chance points.
“We just highlight a lot of practice boxing out, rebounding and crashing the boards offensively,” Tac said. “Defensively, (we focus on) getting the stop and getting that board so that we can get out in transition, so that was a highlight of our game plan, and we executed that well.”
In addition, the Miners forced Charlotte into 19 turnovers, picking up seven steals in the process.
Arike had 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Jazion Jackson tied her career high with nine rebounds and Erin Wilson played nine key minutes off the bench with six points and three rebounds.
After splitting the pair of games at home, the Miners are now set to depart for games at FIU and Florida Atlantic on Thursday and Saturday.