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UTEP jumped out to a 33-19 lead at the break and never looked back en route to toppling Houston, 73-55, at the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening.
Kayla Thornton (19 points, 14 rebounds), Anete Steinberga (17 points), Kelli Willingham (14) all reached double figures for the Miners (19-6, 7-5 C-USA), who shot a season-high 47.1 percent (vs. D1 foes) from the floor.
A continual mix of defensive looks gave the Cougars (11-14, 5-7 C-USA) fits, as they connected on just 29.1 percent (18-of-61) of their shots. UH made some runs but the Orange and Blue answered each time. The visitors never got closer than seven points over the final 20 minutes, with UTEP enjoying a double-digit lead for the final 8:50.
The effort improves the Miners to 95-21 at home since 2006-07, including 13-2 this year.
UTEP was clicking on all cylinders for most of the contest, registering helpers on half of its baskets. Chrishauna Parker flirted with a double-double by tallying eight points and eight rebounds while also dishing out three assists. Cameasha Turner, who earned the first start of her career, matched her season high with six points in a personal-best 36 minutes.
While UH outrebounded UTEP (39-38), the Miners did plenty of other things right. UTEP held a dominating advantage in fast-break points (22-4) while also turning 16 giveaways by the visitors into 16 points.
In an interesting subplot, the two teams were whistled for a combined 42 fouls. The Miners drilled 19-of-25 (76.0) percent at the line, including 15-of-20 in the second half. Houston finished at 17-of-21 from the charity stripe, with all of those occurring in the second stanza.
The two sides traded blows for most of the first period, and UTEP led 22-19 with 3:05 to play. Things changed in an instant, though, when the Miners found that extra gear. They closed the period on an 11-0 run en route to staking the 14-point cushion (33-19) at the locker room.
To its credit Houston continued to battle, but the Miners would not let the Cougars get back into the contest. UH was able to whittle the deficit to seven (54-47) with 9:21 to play but UTEP kept its composure. It struck back with a 7-0 run, capped by a Kayla Thornton triple, and the Miners put it on cruise control down the stretch.
UTEP will be back in action when it plays at Memphis at 1 p.m. MST Sunday. The game will air on 1150 AM in El Paso.
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