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UTEP Women's Basketball: Clutch plays help UTEP hold off Arkansas State 74-68 in WNIT second round

The Miners came up with some huge plays down the stretch to close out their second round WNIT matchup with Arkansas State 74-68.

Monday night's game was a battle of two talented mid-major teams who deserved NCAA Tournament bids, but instead they took their frustrations out on each other in a hard fought, 74-68 UTEP win in the second round of the WNIT Tournament.

Sparkle Taylor poured in 18 points, and added six rebounds, Jenzel Nash and Cameasha Turner each scored 16 points, and UTEP crushed Arkansas State on the glass 39-28 which helped down the stretch.  Turner led the effort on the glass with eight boards, and Lawna Kennedy added seven rebounds off the bench.

UTEP shot 44.4 percent from the field in the game, and went 13-of-16 from the free throw line, and also cashed in on 19 second chance points via 20 offensive rebounds, and 21 points off 15 A-State turnovers.

The first seven minutes of the first quarter was a classic heavyweight bout that saw both squads trade buckets, and blows, but Jenzel Nash finished the quarter in style to give UTEP a lead.

Nash scored six of UTEP's last eight points of the first quarter, while Arkansas State went scoreless in the final 3:12 of the quarter after taking a 14-11 lead.  UTEP finished the quarter on an 8-0 run to grab a 19-14 lead after the opening quarter.

UTEP's lead would swell to 25-16, as the Miners run grew to 14-2 after Turner finished a fast break with a layup coming off an Arkansas State turnover with 8:42 left in the second quarter.

Lulu McKinney would give UTEP their first double digit lead of the game with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, then Turner sank a pair of free throws during a 7-0 UTEP spurt as the Miners led 32-18 inside the six minute mark of the second quarter.

As well as UTEP played offensively during that stretch, the Miners came up empty on their last five possessions of the half, four ending in turnovers as UTEP took a 36-30 lead at the halftime break.

A-State's Khadija Brown-Haywood would give the Red Wolves some life coming out of the locker rooms as she knocked down back-to-back jumpers, the second was a 3-pointer which cut the UTEP lead to 43-39 with 4:52 left in the third quarter.

The Red Wolves would ride that spurt and make four in a row from the field, and a pair of free throws from Brittany Fowler saw UTEP's lead almost completely disappear with A-State trailing 50-49 with 1:23 left in the third quarter.

UTEP was able to weather the Red Wolves strong third quarter as Sparkle Taylor would square up and easily knock down a 15-foot jumper to end the third quarter pushing UTEP back in front 54-51 heading into the final 10 minutes.

Taylor would score five straight for the Miners to open the fourth quarter, then Cameasha Turner executed a perfectly drawn up inbound play with a layup right under the basket as UTEP went back up 61-53 with under eight minutes left to play.

A-State would quickly answer with back-to-back 3-pointers from Flanery, and Brown-Haywood which trimmed the lead to 61-59 Miners, but Breedlove would knock down a 3-ball from the corner on the next possession to give UTEP some breathing room and a 64-59 lead as the clocked ticked down to under six minutes left in the contest.

Then the last four minutes turned into a classic finish, with an unlikely hero coming up big for the Miners.

UTEP held a 66-65 lead during a two minute stretch in where the Miners went 0-of-5 from the field, then Gamble hit a pair of free throws to give A-State their first lead of the second half 67-66, with 2:52 left in the game.

Breedlove put UTEP back in front with a pair of freebies as the Miners led 68-67 heading into the final two minutes.

After a UTEP offensive foul gave the Red Wolves possession with 1:20 left, Amanda Lawson split a pair at the line, and things were tied at 68 with 1:05 left to play and the Miners with the ball.

Agata Dobrowolska came up huge on UTEP's next possession, hitting a turnaround jumper from around the free throw line that give UTEP a 70-68 lead with 47.3 seconds left.

Brown-Haywood would get a clean look at a go-ahead 3-pointer on the next possession, but it would carom strong off the rim, and Breedlove raced down the loose ball which led to a foul on A-State, and a timeout from the Red Wolves with 28.3 seconds left.

Out of the timeout. Dobrowlskla found a cutting Nash who finished off another well timed inbound call with an easy uncontested layup to put UTEP ahead 72-68 with 25.2 seconds left.

Nash would then rip the ball away from Gamble as A-State went into desperation mode on their following possession which led to Dobrowolska making two free throws with 14 seconds left to finally put a bow on a UTEP win.

Gamble finished with a game high 21 points, and Brown-Haywood added 19 points for the Red Wolves who shot 47.2 percent from the field, and 5-of-16 from behind the 3-point arch in the ball game.

UTEP moves on to the third round and will host TCU Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. in the Don Haskins Center.