CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A 12-0 run to end the first half sparked UTEP to a gutsy 70-64 win at Charlotte on Wednesday evening inside Halton Arena.
The Miners (15-7, 8-5 C-USA) had trailed by as many as 10 early in the second quarter before flipping the script on the 49ers (10-12, 6-7 C-USA) entering the locker room.
After taking a 33-29 advantage into the half, UTEP never trailed again, building the lead to as large as 16 points.
“We started out a little sluggish because coming out here (to the East Coast) is a little more difficult than what most people realize,” UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker said. “I kept telling our assistant coaches that the longer the game goes on, the better we will get. We weren’t able to practice yesterday because of travel and then losing two hours. Those are all factors. It took us a minute to get our motor running, and then of course we changed some things defensively and offensively that I think really helped us.”
Over the final three quarters, the Miners shot over 50 percent in each stanza, highlighted by a 9-of-12 (75 percent) clip in the third. UTEP outscored the 49ers 45-26 over the middle two quarters.
“I think switching to a matchup zone really helped us,” Baker said. “It kept them in front of us and got them out of rhythm. The kids then really settled in and ran the stuff that we asked them to run. I thought that was crucial. Execution down the stretch was really important. We ran some really quality sets in the fourth quarter that got us some easy baskets when they were making their run at us.”
For the game, the Miners went 29-of-55 (52.7 percent) from the floor, marking their strongest shooting percentage of the season and the best since a 74-53 handling of UAB on Feb. 5, 2021 in which they hit at a 53.7 percent clip.
Charlotte made things interesting late, as Tamia Davis tallied the final five points of the third to ignite a push that eventually cut the lead down to one possession at 64-61 with 1:39 left.
Aylesha Wade was a big key to the comeback efforts for the 49ers as well, scoring 11 of her 13 points during a 4:57 stretch of the fourth.
Elina Arike and Jazion Jackson helped the visitors withstand the test though, converting on a pair of late baskets to extend the UTEP lead to 68-61 with 37 seconds left, all but eliminating hope for Charlotte.
Five players scored in double figures for the Miners, led for the fourth game in a row by Arike with 16 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal.
N’Yah Boyd generated 12 points off the bench while finding open teammates throughout the night on the way to a career-high eight assists. Boyd also had three steals on the other side of the floor.
Erin Wilson continued to play well out of the starting lineup for the Miners, notching her fifth consecutive game in double figures with 11 points.
Jackson and Avery Crouse each tallied 10 points, with Jackson grabbing a team-high six boards.
Charlotte was 22-of-46 (47.8 percent) overall and 5-of-16 (31.3 percent) from the perimeter.
“To watch our team fight off the Charlotte run late because they learned from the last time out (against WKU) shows so much growth in our team and so much maturity,” Baker said. “I am looking forward to continuing our run. We’ll get on the plane, and we’ll get ready to prepare for UTSA.”
Wednesday marked the seventh game in a row decided by single digits for UTEP and the 10th time it has happened in the last 11 contests.
After a season-high 1,403 fans showed up to cheer on the Miners last Saturday against WKU, the Miners return to the Don this Saturday at 1 p.m. to battle UTSA. In addition to Military Appreciation Day, fans are also encouraged to wear pink as part for the annual pink out game.