UTEP earns 62-54 win over LA Tech in Conference USA opener
RUSTON, La. – Jazion Jackson and Adhel Tac posted career days as the UTEP Miners upended LA Tech 62-54 on Sunday afternoon to open the Conference USA portion of the schedule.
The Miners (8-2, 1-0 C-USA) have now won 12 of their last 14 conference openers and are a perfect 7-0 when starting the C-USA slate on the road.
Jackson sparked the UTEP offensive attack early on, burying a career-high five 3-pointers in the first half on the way to scoring a season-high 17 points with eight rebounds, four assists and four steals in a strong all-around performance.
“She is capable of doing that,” UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker said. “She’s that kind of player. They went zone because they were having trouble guarding us, and then we hit some perimeter shots. It really helped us to be able to mix it up like that to be able to able to play our game and then to hit some shots to get them back out of the zone. In terms of her individual performance, she is the type of player that can do that night in and night out.”
Fittingly, it was Jackson who got the Miners on the board first following beautiful ball movement by Avery Crouse and Tac, sinking a straightaway triple right out of the chutes to put the visitors up 3-0.
Tac grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds to pair with 12 points for her second double-double of the season.
Nine of the 13 UTEP points in the first 10 minutes came via the perimeter, as the Miners led 13-10 after a quarter.
One of those shots from distance came from Jackson near the end of the first, sparking a 9-2 run that opened up a 19-12 lead in the second following a N’Yah Boyd layup.
From that point on, Jackson would score the final nine points of the half for the Miners to secure a 28-24 edge at the break.
Multiple players would help her out in the second half, including Crouse scoring eight of her 11 in the final 20 minutes and Boyd nine of her 11 for the day.
LA Tech (7-4, 0-1 C-USA) started the second half on a hot stretch, building a 36-30 lead after a 12-2 run at the beginning of the third.
The end of the third though would be all Miners, as a 14-3 run in response to the rally by the Lady Techsters created a 44-39 lead at the end of the quarter.
Crouse netted the first seven points of the sequence, followed by Tac hauling down an offensive rebound and putting the miss back up and in to even things at 39.
After relinquishing the lead, LA Tech would only hold the advantage one more time the rest of the way, a 50-49 edge with 4:41 left that lasted just 31 seconds thanks to a Boyd bucket to give the Miners the lead back.
It would be all UTEP the rest of the way, with the Miners capping the game on a 13-4 run to pick up the win.
Two Elina Arike baskets in the paint over the final 90 seconds were key to the strong finish.
“Any team that went through as much adversity off the floor as we did getting here can handle any adversity that they face on the floor,” Baker said. “I am really proud of our mental toughness in this game. LA Tech is a very, very good team. They are really well coached and we are very fortunate to come out of this building with a victory.”
UTEP outrebounded the Lady Techsters 36-29 and led for over 29 minutes of game action. From the floor, the Miners were 23-of-64 (36 percent) and 7-of-22 (32 percent) from 3-point land. They turned the ball over just 11 times.
LA Tech took 25 fewer shots and turned the ball over 20 times. When the Lady Techsters did get shots off, they found some success, shooting 20-of-39 (55 percent) from the field and 6-of-11 (55 percent) on perimeter attempts.
The Miners have nearly two weeks off before their next contest, taking the floor at the Don Haskins Center for the first time in almost a month on Dec. 29 against UAB. Tip time is slated for 7 p.m. MT.