UTEP’s senior leader Sparkle Taylor refused for her team to lose their fifth straight game with her career-best 34 points, but her efforts were not enough as the Miners fell 76-69 to North Texas on Thursday.
The bleeding for UTEP (6-19, 3-10 C-USA) continues weeks away from the conference tournament, which is now in jeopardy for the Miners. Head coach of UTEP Keitha Adams and her unit hold the tiebreaker for the last spot in the league by what seems like a hair. In games that are all must-wins, UTEP did not execute as they expected to against the Mean Green.
After an opening quarter that went in UTEP’s favor and saw the home team lead 24-16 through the first ten minutes, UNT answered with a 26-16 second quarter of their own. From then on, the game was a toss-up that could have gone either way.
Taylor did everything in her power to inch for the win with her 34 points and seven boards. However, she was dealing with foul trouble the entire fourth quarter and it forced her to sit in the defining moments of the game. When she eventually fouled out with 1:44 left on the clock, the Miners were already having trouble finding the bottom of the net and it contributed to the Miners not hitting a field goal in the final five minutes of the contest.
“We had bad shot selections and we were rushing on offense. We need to execute better,” Adams said.
No other player on the Miners’ roster scored over double-digits. Taylor hit shot after shot, and nearly scored half of her team’s points.
“I took Sparkle out at times just to give her a rest. It would have been good to have others in double figures for us, that would have helped,” Adams said.
When UTEP was working it inside to her and it seemed to work to the benefit of Adams, forward Tamara Seda was taken out of the ball game for reaching the foul limit, forcing her to watch from the sidelines. She was UTEP’s second leading scorer on the night with nine points, and her defense on the other end was missed down the stretch.
UNT pulled away and nailed free throws at a higher rate than UTEP, nailing 22-27 (81 percent) from the charity strike, compared to ten crucial misses for the Miners, who went 25-35 (71 percent).
“We missed ten free throws and our execution at the end was not what I expected,” Adams said. “I would like to have those free throws back.”
Although UNT turned it over at an alarming 21 times, they countered their mistakes with the huge advantage on the three-point arc. From long range, the Miners only hit two and allowed eight from the Mean Green on the other side of the ball. Also, as UTEP totaled less turnovers (16) than UNT, they were at the costliest times, according to Adams.
“The combination of costly turnovers and sloppy play made this a tough game to handle,” Adams said.
UNT had the luxury of three players in double-digit points, Terriell Bradley (18 points), Terra Ellison (14 points) and Tyara Warren (12 points). In total, the three comibined for 44 points and gave the Mean Green a variety to select from.
And the Miners were their own worst enemy when it came to closing out solid defensive possessions—UNT grabbed 11 of their 37 total rebounds from the offensive glass. The Mean Green’s effort granted them the ball when UTEP was on the verge of a couple possessions away from a comeback victory.
“Our team got out rebounded; I was hoping it would get better in the second half but they made the shots to win the game,” Adams said.
Next, UTEP will continue their final homestand of the season when Rice comes to El Paso on Feb. 18.
“I told my team to keep their heads up and keep working. We have to keep at it,” Adams said.