El Paso, TX — Jenzel Nash scored a season-high 20 points and UTEP forced 25 turnovers but it wasn't enough to offset a challenging shooting night in a 74-58 loss at SEC power Texas A&M Thursday evening.
Kayla Thornton (18 points, 13 rebounds) and Kristine Vitola (10) also hit double digits in scoring for the Miners (11-2), who trailed the Aggies (10-4) by 25 with 8:23 to play before mounting a furious rally. UTEP went on a 16-4 run in a four-minute span to trim the deficit to 13 (70-57) with 4:24 remaining.
The home side was held to just four free throws down the stretch and six points in the final 6:24, but its defense did enough to keep UTEP from getting any closer.
The Miners finished at 32.8 percent (21-of-64) from the floor, with the readout being hindered by finishing 0-of-12 from beyond-the-arc. It marks the first time since the 2005-06 season that the Miners were unable to connect on a triple in a tilt.
Another factor was rebounding, which was in favor of Texas A&M (45-32). UTEP had more offensive rebounds (12) than the Aggies (11), with the margin being more of an indication of the shooting percentage than anything else.
The Aggies connected on 47.3 percent (26-of-55) from the floor, with Courtney Williams (21), Courtney Walker (18) and Karla Gilbert (12) leading the charge.
“I’m really proud of our fight,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “We showed a lot of character. We are disappointed to lose but will build off of it. We had a really rough shooting night.”
UTEP struck first with a jumper and the two teams went back and forth over the first 10 minutes of the game. The Aggies’ lead was five (21-16) with 9:59 to play before the home side got things going at both ends of the court.
The result was a 15-2 run for TAMU, with seven of the points coming from Williams. The difference was 18 at the break (42-24), with Williams’ 16 points being the difference.
Texas A&M methodically extended its advantage in the second stanza, eventually getting it out to 26 but Adams’ squad refused to quit. The Miners continued to battle and were rewarded for their effort by making Texas A&M call some timeouts down the stretch to stem the rally, but it was too little too late.
UTEP will now turn its attention to Conference USA play, which initiates at UAB at 6 p.m. MST on Jan. 8.