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UTEP women let lead slip, drop fourth straight

Claudia Hernandez
Najala Howell attempts to pass the ball to a teammate before a 58-55 loss to UTSA on Friday night at the Don Haskins Center.

Despite leading by as many as 15 in the first half, the UTEP women’s basketball team was unable to hold on, falling to visiting UTSA 58-55 on Friday night at the Don Haskins Center.

The loss pushed UTEP’s losing streak to four games while the win earned the Roadrunners (7-19, 5-10 C-USA) the season split after a 66-53 victory by the Miners in the first matchup this season on Feb. 4, in San Antonio. With Friday’s win, UTSA now leads the all-time record against UTEP, 22-11.

UTEP’s four-game skid has come by a combined 12 points, which has made the streak even harder for the team to take in.

“When you lose four games in a row added up to 12 points, it’s tough for kids (players) to overcome,” said UTEP head coach Kevin Baker. “We have pretty good kids in that locker room and they deserve some payoff. We won close games early in the year and it seems like right now we just can’t quite get over the hump.”

The Miners (14-12, 5-8 C-USA) were on fire in the first half, shooting 54 percent (14-26) to the Roadrunners 32 percent (9-28) but allowed UTSA to close out the half on an 5-2 sprut that seemed to have shifted the momentum of the game into the Roadrunners favor.

After taking a 32-17 lead at the 3-minute mark of the second quarter off a Tamara Seda and-1 layup shot, the Miners would not score another field goal until the clock read 3:41 in the third quarter.

UTSA scored the second half’s first eight points, grabbing their first lead (48-47) with five minutes remaining in the frame. Although UTEP was able to exchange baskets and retake a 51-50 lead, back-to-back jumpers by UTSA’s Crystal Chidomere allowed the Roadrunners to regain the lead (54-51) for good.

Chidomere led all scorer with 29 points off 11 made field goals (11-20) for UTSA.

The Miners, who lead Conference USA in the rebounding margin category (7.2), were outrebounded 35-28 and 14-8 on the offensive side of the glass.

“Defensively, we have to keep our intensity up in both opening halfs and closing them too,” said UTEP junior guard Najala Howell. “We got to find a way to pull it out, we have to keep working hard and try to stay positive.”

Najala Howell registered 17 points to lead the Miners, but her potential game-tying 3-point shot in the final seconds of play rimmed out as UTSA completed its comeback.

“I think it was a pretty good look,” Howell said. “It looked good when it left my hands but it just didn’t go in.”

Tamara Seda scored 11 points to join Howell in double figures while Jordan Alexander added nine points in the loss.

Turnovers were an issue for both teams as UTSA and UTEP average a total of 18 per game. The Miners turned the ball over 19 times while the Roadrunners gave it up 16 times. Both teams notched 16 points off these turnovers.

The Miners will return to action on Sunday (Feb. 25) in Hattiesburg, Miss., to take on the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.

“They (Southern Mississippi) are so athletic,” Baker said. “They can press you, make you turn the ball over and they are also a good rebounding team. They aren’t the best shooting team but if they can press you they can beat you.”

Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. CST.

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Jeremy Carranco
Jeremy Carranco, Sports Editor
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UTEP women let lead slip, drop fourth straight