EL PASO, Texas - UTEP was at it's best when their starters were in. They were even better when their posts were scoring at will.
The Miners' starters combined to score 65 points, Kayla Thornton and Anete Steinberga had a 40 total and the Miners defeated the Sam Houston State Bearkats 85-66 Friday night at the Don Haskins Center.
"They did tonight what we expected them to do. They're really experienced, season players for us, they've played a lot," head coach Keitha Adams said. "That's what they should be doing. It's their role and what we expect from them."
Chrishauna Parker could be thrown into that mix (even though she was switched to a guard after the Jenzel Nash injury in the pre-season) as she chipped in 15 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists for a near triple-double. It was Parker's career-best outing on the boards.
"If you rebound, it's easy to put it back in. My rebounding game was on tonight so I feel like I got easy points," Parker said.
UTEP had their best assist-to-turnover ratio of the season at 19:6. It was also the second-fewest turnovers they had all season.
Adams was not pleased with her team's defense, however, which she said could be a result of the Christmas break and the few practices they've had since then. The Miners held the Bearkats to 23.3 percent in the first half but Sam Houston State shot 42.4 percent in the second.
"That touches on it a little bit…(defense) is probably an area we didn't touch on since we've been back but we'll work on it tomorrow," Adams said.
The Bearkats were led by Britini Martin, who had a game-high 25 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the three. Sam Houston State went 6-of-20 from the perimeter but 3-of-8 in the second half.
"That was a stretch that probably disappointed most in tonight's game and that was the defense-not guarding and all," Adams said. "Sam Houston is going to make you earn it."
UTEP built a 19-point lead at the half and extended it to 26 by the 16:34 mark of the second half, which was when Adams began subbing out her starters.
The Bearkats then went on a 22-9 run to cut the deficit in half, which prompted Adams to insert her starters back in the game.
Her starters-Thornton, Steinberga, Parker, Kelli Willingham and Irene Gari-were able to maintain the lead, never letting it dwindle under 10 points the rest of the way.
"I think the chemistry on offense was pretty good but the defense kind of hurt us at the end in the second half," Steinberga said. "I think there's improvement for the next game and in the conference so we have time to work on it."
The Miners began the game by missing their first six shots and falling behind 9-5, UTEP took their first lead five-and-a-half minutes into the game and never looked back en route to a 44-25 halftime lead.
They went on a 10-0 run over the course of four minutes and did not allow a Sam Houston State field goal for over five minutes. Leading the charge during the run was Steinberga who had the last six points and 11-straight Miner points.
"Their defense was kind of weird. I found myself really open, that was weird for me…I said I just need to take a chance," Steinberga said.
UTEP exploited their height advantage against the Bearkats as Steinberga and Thornton, their two starting frontcourt players, combined for 29 of the half's 44 points. Only one of the points came from the Miners' bench.
UTEP also outrebounded their opponent 32-17 and had just two turnovers in the half.