UTEP put together an almost perfect effort and performance to upset Southern Miss. but it was the Golden Eagles who were able to convert down the stretch to escape from the Don with a 66-60 win.
Cameasha Turner registered a double-double with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and also dished out six assists, but was the only Miner to score in double figures as UTEP shot 28.8 percent on the afternoon.
Southern Miss. forward Tamara Jones poured in a game high 25 points, and added seven rebounds, Jerontay Clemons added 12 points and nine rebounds for Southern Miss. who gained a half game second place lead in the C-USA standings.
A nip and tuck first half saw both teams each hold a five point lead which would be the largest for either side in the first twenty minutes.
Southern Miss. scored 20 of their 35 first half points in the paint, but UTEP cashed in on 10 points off nine Southern Miss. first half turnovers to take a slim 37-35 lead into the break.
The game featured nine lead changes and five ties, but Southern Miss. separated themselves with the first and only game changing run of the contest.
Tied at 44 with under 12 minutes to play, Southern Miss. would charge a 10-1 run that featured a pair of three pointers from Jones to cap off the run, putting Southern Miss. up 54-45 with 9:06 left in the game.
But Cameasha Turner willed her team to not give up over the next stretch of minutes.
UTEP and Turner would answer with a 7-2 spurt after Turner laid one in plus the foul and free throw to cut the Southern Miss. lead to 56-52 with 4:12 left to play.
Southern Miss. did an exceptional job of keeping UTEP out of the paint, forcing the Miners to shoot 2/16 from three in the second half, and dominated the points in the paint category with a 36-20 advantage.
Still chipping away at the deficit down the stretch, Turner swept through the lane to bring UTEP within four, then Lulu McKinney followed that up with a layup to bring the Miners within a possession, trailing 59-57 at the 1:39 mark.
Southern Miss. would split their next three trips at the free throw line, and Anete Kirsteine banged home a three from the top of the key that brought a very impressive Sunday afternoon crowd into a frenzy, though UTEP still trailed 62-60 with 1:01 left in the barn burner.
Following a UTEP foul on the next possession, Clemons again split two looks at the line putting So Miss. ahead 63-60.
Kirseitne came up empty an a three point chance to tie on the other end with 37 seconds left. Turner came away with the offensive board off the miss, but would turn it over and Tamra Jones would complete a three point play off a fast break look via the turnover to put UTEP away 66-60.
UTEP forced 18 total turnovers on the afternoon to keep them at bay, but were out rebounded 48-39, and finished 9/34 from behind the three point line.
Lawana Kennedy came up big off the UTEP bench with nine points, and four rebounds, Sparkle Taylor added seven points, and six rebounds, while Irene Gari finished her last game in the Don with seven points, and four rebounds, but was 2/10 from the field.
The loss drops to UTEP 11-14 overall, and 6-10 in C-USA play, ending the Miners home schedule with two road games at North Texas on Thursday, and a visit to Rice on Saturday.