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El Paso, TX — Kristine Vitola (11 points), Kelli Willingham (11 points) and Stacie Telles (10 points) turned in double-digit scoring efforts but UTEP couldn’t withstand the barrage of a Conference USA record 20 three-pointers in a 98-62 loss at Florida Atlantic Wednesday evening.
The two teams traded blows over the first eight minutes of the game, and it was two-point lead (21-19) for the home side with 12:19 to play in the first half. Things changed in a hurry, with the Owls (16-13, 6-10 C-USA) hitting four threes to fuel a game-changing 14-2 run over the next three minutes.
The Miners (23-6, 12-4 C-USA) halted the sequence with a triple from Telles but the damage had been done. The deficit was 17 (49-32) at the break, and the short-handed Orange and Blue squad (leading scorer and rebounder Kayla Thornton missed her third straight game) could get no closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
The setback, which snapped UTEP’s three-game winning streak, should give it plenty of motivation heading into the 2014 Conference USA Championships.
“We just got outplayed tonight,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “They gave us an old-fashioned butt kicking. We were not mentally ready to play tonight. As the night got longer, the basket got bigger & bigger. We ought to be a very unhappy bunch because we got our tails kicks and handed to us.”
The home-standing Owls finished at 42.5 percent (34-of-80) from the floor, including the aforementioned 20-of-47 from three-point range. It was a nearly flawless night of execution for FAU, which dished out 17 assists and committed just two turnovers.
Latavia Dempsey (24 points), Takia Brooks (24 points), Kimberly Smith (19 points) and Briah Blakely (12 points) led the charge for FAU, with the quartet doing most of its damage (19-of-37) from three-point range. Brooks, a point guard, grabbed 10 rebounds to secure a double-double while also dishing out five assists.
The Miners, who connected on 41.4 percent (12-of-29), in the opening frame ran out of steam in the second stanza. UTEP slipped to 28.9 percent (11-of-38) after the break to finish with a rare off shooting night (23-of-67, 34.3 percent). The Miners did well against the FAU press with only 12 turnovers, but still were out-scored to the tune of 15-1 in points off turnovers.
Chrishauna Parker secured a team-high 10 rebounds for UTEP, which lost the battle of the boards, 50-44.
The 2014 Conference USA Basketball Championships will be held in El Paso from March 11-15, and tickets can be purchased by calling (915) 747-6150. UTEP, which received a double-bye as result of its finishing third in league play, will square off against a yet-to-be determined opponent in the quarterfinals of the event on March 13.
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