Miners pluck Golden Eagles in conference matchup

January 29, 2016

The UTEP women’s basketball team extends their win streak to nine after defeating Southern Mississippi 72-64 on Thursday, Jan. 28, in the Don Haskins Center.

The game allowed fans to enter the game for free, in part of the annual Pack the House night. The arena filled a positive amount of fans to watch the top-ranked Conference USA Miners (17-1, 8-0 C-USA) in action.

“This is an example when I tell El Paso that them coming to our games helps us,” head coach Keitha Adams said. “There’s absolutely no question us having this great crowd tonight that our players fed off that.”

The win was not like some of the ladies’ previous victories. Rather, coach Adams and her squad were battling until the end.
“This win tonight was all heart,” Adams said. “We struggled offensively and it was a grind.”

Southern Miss rocketed out to a 12-9 start over the Miners. They held UTEP to only 31 percent shooting from the floor through the majority of the first quarter. Southern Miss had led primarily in the quarter, and it was not until Lulu McKinney hit back-to-back 3-pointers at the end of the first quarter and start of the second, respectively, that the Miners gained more rhythm on offense.

Afterwards, the Miners started to get more comfortable on the defensive end. They forced three negative plays in a row on defense, transitioning into six offensive points in their favor. More than halfway into the second quarter, UTEP went on a 20-4 run on Southern Miss.

To close out the half, Southern Miss played the charity stripe game and drew back-to-back fouls against the Miners. At halftime the Miners led by 10, 36-26.

Throughout the third quarter, Caitlin Jenkins of Southern Miss took a dominant stand. She made a quick bucket to tie the game at 45, then a go-ahead jumper immediately after. Southern Miss outscored UTEP 23-15 in the third, and cut the Miners’ lead to 2-points, 51-49.

The Miners answered rapidly in the fourth, going on a 6-2 run for the first four minutes of the final quarter. With 3:09 left, Starr Breedlove made a clutch 3-pointer, making the score 63-58. The home-team’s defense proved to be a key factor, as they forced a shot clock violation against the Golden Eagles with two minutes winding down. While Cameasha Turner had back-to-back scoring plays, the Golden Eagles failed on two offensive possessions. The Miners then passed the test on the free throw line, and dragged out the clock, winning the game, 72-64.

In the fourth quarter, they were also able to halt Jenkins to no points.

“Number 15 (Jenkins) is a really good ball player,” Adams said. “She’s scored a lot on the box. I thought our team did a good job of covering her.”

Despite the slow start in the shooting category, four Miners were able to put ten or more points on the board. Turner led the team in points (20), followed by Jenzel Nash (16), Sparkle Taylor (13) and Starr Breedlove (12).

Despite missing last game due to concussion-like symptoms, Turner returned to the court and proved to be a key on both ends of the court. She also led the team with four steals and made 10-of-11 free throws.

“Personally I knew I had to pick it up in the fourth quarter,” Turner said. “Coach pulled me out a couple minutes to get my head together. I knew I had to lock in and play some defense because we play hard at the end of the game.

Although the team was -7 on the turnover margin, Turner believed that the key to the win was the defense. Also, Turner went on to label the victory as a “big win.”

“Southern Miss is a great team,” Turner said. “We always play against them good. They’re kind of like our rivals, since I’ve been here as a freshman. We came out and knew we had to play big against Southern Miss.”

The Miners are currently one of seven teams in the nation that have one or fewer losses. They have picked up votes from both major polls and currently rank 31st in the Associated Press.

Next, the Miners will face Louisiana Tech on Saturday, Jan. 30, at 2 p.m. in the Don Haskins.

Adrian Broaddus may be reached at [email protected]

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