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El paso, TX — Four different Miners reached double figures in scoring to help UTEP pound NM State, 94-69, in the first round of the “Battle of I-10” this year at the Don Haskins Center Tuesday evening. It marks the second-largest margin of victory in the series for the Miners (2-0), who led the Aggies (0-1) wire-to-wire.
The difference was only six at the break (39-33) but UTEP made that a distant memory with a 9-0 surge out of the gates to start the second half. The home side continued to pour it on, leading by 20+ points over the final 11:23 of the game. The Miners’ 55 points after the break, equaling the fifth-highest second-half scoring sum in program history.
Senior Kayla Thornton led the way with her 22nd career double-double (22 points, 12 rebounds), which puts her in a tie with former Miner Amy Pack (1999-01) for the career standard. Fellow El Pasoan Stacie Telles came off the bench to provide 16 points, while Jenzel Nash (14 points) & Kelli Willingham (12 points) also reached double figures in scoring.
The Miners connected on 55.0 percent (33-of-60) from the floor, aided by going 20-of-29 (69.0 percent) in the explosive second half. They shared the ball well with 17 assists to 13 turnovers and also drilled 18-of-27 (66.7) at the charity stripe.
NM State enjoyed some good offensive moments, with Vanessa Garner leading a quartet of Aggies in double figures with 16 points. The visitors were done in, though, by turnovers (17), which led to 29 points for the Orange and Blue.
“We have to find a way to play defense for 40 minutes,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “The first half was not very good defensively. The first 10 minutes of the second half was much better and got us a good win. I’ll be pleased if we figure out how to play defense for 40 minutes.”
UTEP won the battle of the boards (39-32) while also recording 14 thefts.
Thornton set the tone early with the first six points of the contest. The visitors countered with five in a row but Willingham reinstated control with the first of her four three pointers in the game.
The two sides traded baskets over the next several minutes, and the Miner lead was two (18-16) with 9:14 to play in the period. UTEP picked it up at both ends, though, ripping off a 10-2 run over the next three minutes to stake its first double-digit lead of the game (28-18).
NM State regrouped and started to rally back, whittling the deficit down to one (34-33) with 43 seconds to play in the period. It would get no closer, though, with Telles making maybe the biggest basket of the night by drilling a triple to put UTEP up 37-33. She then came up with a steal, was fouled, and sank two free throws to give the Miners some breathing room at the break.
The Orange and Blue relied upon the aforementioned 9-0 run to open the second half, and the youth-laden Aggies could never recover. The advantage swelled to as many as 37 (90-53) with 3:19 to play in regulation before the Aggies closed the game out on a 16-4 surge to make the final score more aesthetically pleasing.
UTPE will continue its season-opening six-game homestand when it plays host to Big 12 member Kansas State at 2 p.m. MST Saturday. All fans who have a ticket for the Miners’ football game cane use it to get in free to the tilt against the Wildcats.
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