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UTEP Thunders Past Marshall, 64-56

EL PASO, TEXAS ? Sophomore Kayla Thornton posted her second double-double of the season (19 points, 10 rebounds) to help UTEP topple a feisty Marshall squad, 64-56, in front of a season-best 4,167 fans at the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening.

The Miners (21-2, 10-0 C-USA) rode a 27-12 run midway through the second stanza to rip control of the contest. The Thundering Herd (13-10, 4-6 C-USA), who had managed a 40-35 advantage with 14:49 to play prior to the run, never recovered.

UTEP made its free throws down the stretch, with Marshall unable to get closer than six. The effort keeps the Miners perfect in Conference USA play while extending their overall win streak to 11.

Junior Anete Steinberga tallied 12 points while grabbing six rebounds in an efficient 20 minutes of action. Kelli Willingham scored nine points, including a triple early in the game-changing run, while Melisa Mendes pitched in seven.

UTEP drilled 45.8 percent (22-of-48), its second-best effort since the onset of league play, which was aided by making 13-of-25 (52.0 percent) over the final 20 minutes. The Miners out-scored Marshall, 39-30, after the break, and now boast a +11.2 scoring margin in the second half on C-USA contests.

UTEP also won the rebounding battle, 34-31, while pounding the Thundering Herd down low. The Miners scored 30 points in the paint, while also making 17-of-25 at the charity stripe. UTEP took good care of the basketball with 16 assists to just 12 turnovers.

Marshall, the top three-point shooting team in C-USA entering the tilt, couldn?t figure out the Orange and Blue?s defense for most of the contest. While it did hit 41.2 percent overall (21-of-51), the Herd was just 2-of-14 on treys.

Alaya Mitchell was the lone MU player to reach double figures. She finished with 10 points, eight of which came at the free-throw line.

The Miners jumped all over Marshall early, staking a 10-2 lead with 13:12 to play in the first half. The two teams traded baskets over the next several minutes, and the Orange and Blue advantage was at seven (22-15) with 3:37 left in the first half.

Veronica Ruiz provided a spark off the bench for the Herd, though, scoring the game?s next eight points to put her squad into the lead for the first team, 23-22, with 1:04 left in the half. Thornton reinstated a two-point edge with three makes at the charity stripe over the next two possessions, but Marshall carried a one-point advantage (26-25) into the locker room after a triple from Shynisha Johnson.

UTEP would not panic though, even as MU was able to push the margin out to five on a trio of occasions. Instead, the Miners stayed true to form and began to rally.

Senior Kim Smith banked home a three-pointer to start the surge, which was followed by a trey by Willingham. The two sides alternated makes before UTEP?s defense tightened up, and its offense came alive.

UTEP will conclude its two-game homeswing when it plays host to Tulane at 1:05 p.m. MST Sunday. It will be the Pink Zone game as part of ?Breast Cancer Awareness Day,? and all fans who wear pink will get in free. There will also be in-game pink prizes, and a free post-game basketball clinic.

Source: UTEP Athletics

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