Kayla Thornton scored 20 points to lead a quartet of players in double figures, and UTEP battled hard only to have SMU prevail, 82-73, at the Don Haskins Center Sunday afternoon.
The Miners (17-3, 5-2 C-USA) connected on 42.4 (28-of-66) of their shots, including 8-of-20 from three-point range, while also outrebounding (41-38) the Mustangs (16-4, 7-0 C-USA), but the visitors had too much firepower.
Keena Mays (26 points), Alisha Filmore (21 points) and Akil Simpson (16 points) all had big games, and SMU was able to hold off a UTEP rally down the stretch. The Mustangs, who led by four at the break (38-34), put together a run to secure an 18-point cushion (68-50) with 8:26 to play.
The Miners showed off good fight and spirit, using a 13-2 surge in a little less than three minutes to get right back into the game. The two teams traded baskets over the next couple of minutes and the deficit remained only seven (74-67) with 4:21 remaining in regulation.
The defense kept SMU scoreless for the next minute and a half, but the Miners were unable to take advantage. UTEP, which was 9-of-19 on the free-throw line, misfired on the front of one & one opportunities. It also had a tough-luck turnover in the sequence.
The Mustangs finally got a layup from Simpson with 2:41 to play to make it 76-67, and UTEP couldn’t get closer than eight from that point on.
“SMU shot the ball really well and it has a good team,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “We just didn’t make the plays on offense and were 9-of-19 on free throws.”
Anete Steinberga (13 points), Kelli Willingham (11 points) and Irene Gari (10 points) joined Thornton in double figures while freshman Jamie Madden pitched in seven. Chrishauna Parker secured a game-high 11 rebounds while also registering five assists.
SMU jumped out to a 6-2 advantage before a triple from Thornton and lay-up by Gari afforded the Miners their first lead (7-6) of the contest with 16:54 to play. The two sides traded baskets the next couple of trips, and the game was knotted at 10.
SMU peeled off five straight points but the Miners, relying heavily on reserves with Parker, Thornton and Willingham all in foul trouble, struck back. UTEP went on a 9-3 run to regain the advantage (19-18) with 12:13 left.
It was back and forth for the majority of the first half, with neither side staking a cushion of greater than five. SMU led by just one (35-34) with 2:32 to play in the period before a late triple by Filmore gave them the aforementioned four-point lead heading into the locker room.
UTEP had good effort to start the second half, but SMU seemingly couldn’t miss. It hit 11-of-12 from the floor over the first nine minutes, which helped it grab a 61-46 lead with 11:53 left. The Mustangs eventually extended that lead to 18 before the Miners tried to mount the comeback.
UTEP will return to action when it plays at Tulane at 6 p.m. MST Thursday.