Despite a 28-point output from Sparkle Taylor, the Miners showed their youth in a 65-51 loss to Northern Arizona in their season opener on Friday.
“We’ve got so many new players it’s going to take time for us to evolve,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “Northern Arizona deserved to win tonight’s game because they hit some big shots, hit the boards really hard and when they got offensive rebounds they made us pay for it. We had possessions that we took off on the defensive end and there were a few times we had some players who got tired and took a rest down at the other end. If we were to play the way we did tonight and win, that’s a bad lesson. Credit them. We’re going to have to get in the gym to work hard and continue to work to get better.”
The teams traded turnovers and buckets in the first quarter for a 14-all tie, but a 20-2 run gashed UTEP as NAU grabbed 36-21 with 7:28 left in the third quarter as the run started a few minutes into the second quarter.
Then Taylor caught fire.
The senior scored 18 of UTEP’s 20 points during a 20-4 UTEP run which put UTEP in front 41-40 after a jumper from Jakeria Ford with 2:21 left in the third quarter.
NAU took a 46-41 lead in the fourth quarter, then a 7-2 run stretched their 57-47 lead to 64-59 with just under two minutes left to play after a bucket from Taylor Leyva.
UTEP shot 29.8 percent from the field, and turned it over 19 times, but held a 40-38 rebounding advantage.
Taylor was the only Miner to reach double figures as no Miner scored more than five points helping NAU lead for 25 minutes in the game.
NAU drilled 41.9 percent (26-62) of its shots from the floor. It was led bed Olivia Lucero (19 points), Brittani Lusain (18 points) and Rene Coggins (13 points) while Kaleigh Paplow came off the bench to grab 10 boards.
UTEP continues their season opening home stand on Sunday at 2 p.m. against Texas Southern