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Miners clinch C-USA tournament spot with blowout win over FIU

Gaby Velasquez

On senior day at the Don Haskins Center, the UTEP women’s basketball team finished two big quarters to drown Florida International 88-47 for their second largest win in league history.

The Miners also punched their ticket for the Conference USA tournament with their victory over FIU.

“I’m really, really happy for our team and I’m really happy for Sparkle; it’s great when you get a win on your home court on senior day. This team has been through a lot, but I told them after the game that we’re still a team and we believe in each other. It speaks volume on what kind of kids we have in our program,” head coach Keitha Adams said.

This win for the Miners marked their first back-to-back victories of the season with only two games remaining in the regular season. Now at 8-20 and 5-11 in Conference USA play, UTEP sits at 11th place in the league. On the other hand, FIU (5-22, 3-13) put a damp in their conference tournament hopes as they are one game outside of the tournament picture.

In the defining opening period, the Miners blasted for a 20-3 run in the final 6:46 of the quarter to put the game away early, which made the put the home team up by 19 points. The visiting Panthers connected on the first bucket of the game and led for the first minute, but could never recover from UTEP’s surge.

The second run that put the cherry on the top for UTEP’s final home game of the season was in the third period when the Miners outscored the Panthers 31-8 right after halftime. It was the most points scored by UTEP in the third quarter this year. The score heading into the final period was 75-33.

UTEP’s leading scorer senior Sparkle Taylor totaled a team-high of 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists in her final home game of her career. She shot 8-13 and 7-8 from the free throw line.

“It feels great to go out like this. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my four years here. To end it on a win and a good note was so exciting,” Taylor said. “Our whole season was on the line and we wanted to redeem ourselves. We have seven freshmen on this team and we didn’t want them to miss the tournament their first year here. It’s exciting knowing we’re going to the tournament and get the opportunity to win our conference.”

The Miners’ defense was crucial in their 41-point blowout win. As a team, the orange and blue connected on seven long range shots, compared to none by the Panthers all evening. UTEP also had a season-high on steals with 12.

“Our defense was great. I think they took my challenge and we just came in here and won this game,” Adams said.

Off of the Panthers’ cough ups with 17 total turnovers, the Miners cashed in on 28 points off the turnovers.

FIU shot 36.5 percent as a team, while UTEP shot nearly 45 percent all day. The Miners hit 19-22 at the charity strike and the Panthers only shot 9-14 from free throw range. This, in fact, had to do with the rebounding advantage that UTEP was enjoying throughout the match as the Miners grabbed 15 of their 44 total rebounds from the offensive glass.

“For the most part we were aggressive in wanting and going to get the ball. We rebounded and took care of the ball,” Adams said.

UTEP shared the load on the offensive side of the ball with 20 assists and letting the bench get in on the action with 27 points from the reserves.

“We passed it really nice today, we shared the ball nicely. And we played together,” Adams said.

In a game that saw the Miners lead for 37:48, the outcome was never in jeopardy from the opening tip to the last blow of the whistle.

“We executed our game plan from start to finish. The triple overtime loss in Florida probably the most hurt I’ve seen our team, and today we needed this win for tournament reasons; for senior day and we wanted to come out and get revenge,” Adams said.

Next, the Miners will hit the road for their final two games of the season, starting off with Old Dominion on Mar. 2.

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Gaby Velasquez, Photo editor
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Miners clinch C-USA tournament spot with blowout win over FIU