The UTEP women’s basketball team came back from a 15-point deficit for the second time in three games, setting a new single season school record to beat Florida Atlantic 75-70 at the Don Haskins Center on Thursday night.
The Miners (12-6, 3-2 C-USA) used a 14-0 run that began at the four-minute mark of the third quarter and ended nearly halfway through the fourth quarter to shift the momentum of the game in their favor.
“First of all, no coach wants to be down 15 to prove a point,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “They will find a way to chip away at it (deficit) and they are going to be resilient.”
The Owls (8-7, 2-2 C-USA) went cold (2-14, 14.3 percent) from behind the arc in the second half after shooting 8-19 (42.1 percent) in the first.
“We challenged our team at halftime to guard with purpose like we’d been practicing all week and we’d be just fine,” Baker said. “In the second quarter they scored 26 points; in the third and fourth together they scored 25. It was all about guarding for us. When our team did that, it really fed into our offense. I keep saying this about our team, we’re down but we’re never out.”
With at least 11 more games left to play this season, Baker is now the winningest first-year head coach (12) in UTEP women’s basketball history.
Senior captain Tamara Seda secured her ninth double-double of the season (20 points, 10 rebounds) while junior Najala Howell earned her second (22 points, 11 rebounds).
The two leaders also combined for 17-20 (85 percent) from the free throw line in the win.
“I had eight turnovers in the last game we played at their home (FAU) so the whole week we practiced the double team and who was going to be open to find the open shot and I think we executed that pretty well today,” Seda said. “We came out a little slow in the second quarter but we knew we had to play better in the third and fourth and we did.”
Katarina Zec joined Howell and Seda in double figures with 13 points and six boards while Jordan Jenkins, Jordan Alexander and Zuzanna Puc each added six points.
Roeshonda Patterson earned a career-high seven rebounds and two steals in 14 minutes off the bench.
FAU was able to end the Miners’ 15-0 run and eventually tie the game back up at 60-60 with 3:37 remaining. FAU then rallied again after UTEP went up 67-62 with 2:03 left, going on a 10-4 sequence to grab the aforementioned 70-69 advantage off a Malia Kency 3-pointer.
Responding for UTEP was Howell, off a feed from Seda who then earned a layup plus a foul shot to put UTEP back in front. The Miners got two more stops and hit three of their final four free throw attempts to ice the contest.
The Miners also won the boards, 46-38, while also holding an advantage for points in the paint at 34-22.
UTEP shot 43.5 percent (27-63) while also taking care of business at the charity stripe by going 19-24 (79.2 percent).
“We always just try to keep our composure,” Howell said regarding the comeback. “We need to make sure our body language is still good and keep our heads up and fight.”
The Owls were held to 35.8 percent (24-67), including 30.3 percent (10-33) from beyond the arc in a tale of two halves from that mark.
Kency led the visiting Owls with 21 points.
The Miners will head back on the road for a two-game trip at Rice on Jan. 26, at 6 p.m. MST and at North Texas on Jan. 28, at 2 p.m.