UTEP takes series opener against Techsters

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RUSTON, La. – Avery Crouse scored a game-high 17 points to lead UTEP to a 61-58 win over Louisiana Tech Friday night at the Thomas Assembly Center in the first game of a two-game series between the two programs.

Amber Dixon’s game-tying three-point attempt at the buzzer came off the rim as Tech saw its four-game winning streak against the Miners come to an end.

Tech (9-4, 4-3 C-USA) couldn’t overcome a tough night at the free throw line and a subpar performance on the glass in the loss to the Miners (7-5, 4-3 C-USA). The Lady Techsters missed 10 free throws and were outrebounded 40-32 in the game.

“We needed a defensive rebound,” said Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr. “We needed to just be able to get an offensive rebound, putback or make a free throw. And that’s the difference of the game tonight. We got to the free throw line 24 times and we missed 10 and we lost by three at home.

“If you hold someone to 61 at home, you should be able to win. Honestly, it’s just concentration. Go up there and knock a free throw down. This group shoots it too well to be 14-of-24 from the line. We have to have better concentration.

“We just had a number of silly plays like fouling a three-point shooter with .4 left to end the quarter and give them three free points. A lot of little possessions like that. So, it’s frustrating, but a lot of that we can correct, change and come back tomorrow and even it out and get the split.”

Tech came out of the gates strong, scoring the first seven points of the contest and forcing a UTEP timeout less than two minutes into the game. However, the Miners responded and took their first lead at 14-12 on a Katia Gallegos three-pointer with 1;24 to play in the opening stanza. Tech would not lead again in the game.

“Credit to UTEP,” said Stoehr. “Their changing defenses and their zone. We turned the ball over a couple of times against the press just being lazy and loose with the ball, but we have to be better. We were outrebounded by eight at home and that shouldn’t happen. We’ve got to have a more concerted effort on the boards. We worked on that on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday in practice. We weren’t pleased with our boxouts last week, and it came back to hurt us tonight.”

Trailing 27-23 at halftime, Tech kept the game within earshot in the final 20 minutes of action, cutting the deficit down to one possession on 10 different occasions. However, UTEP answered each and every time.

The Miners led 61-56 when Anna Larr Roberson hit a jumper in the lane with 2.1 seconds to play to close the gap to three. Following a timeout, UTEP was attempting to inbounds the basketball when Dixon drew a charge against Gallegos to gain possession back.

Tech had one final opportunity to tie but Dixon’s three-pointer at the buzzer was just off to the right as the Miners picked up the win.

Bre Harris led Tech with 16 points and seven rebounds while Walker added 13 points and Dixon chipped in with 11.

“Bre was very efficient. 6-of-7,” said Stoehr. “We went to her and she scored. She got into a little foul trouble in the first half and we had to sit her for a little while. Again, when you take 24 free throws and you miss 10, you’re taking away opportunities to score. We shot the ball 41 percent. It’s not like we were shooting the ball awful. We just either turned the ball over or missed a free throw. We just didn’t give ourselves chances to score.”

Tech will attempt to salvage the split when the two teams tipoff at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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