Hot shooting drops UH

The Cougars outplayed Texas-El Paso in almost every facet of the game, but they couldn’t stop the Miners from making shots.

UH fell to UTEP, 75-72, on Saturday at Hofheinz Pavilion, suffering its first home loss of the season.

UTEP shot 55.8 percent from the field and 8-of-16 from three-point range to pull out its third consecutive victory.

UH head coach Joe Curl was disappointed with the loss, but gave all the credit to the Miners.

‘I felt like our team gave every effort,’ Curl said. ‘We got beat by a better team today. They shot the ball lights-out.’

UH (16-8, 8-4 Conference USA) played solid defense, but it did not matter as the Miners made contested shots at critical points in the game.

‘A lot of times, our defense had them covered,’ Curl said. ‘They made some tough shots at crucial times.”

The Miners (15-10, 8-4 C-USA) held a 67-59 lead with 5:37 left in the game, but forward Courtney Taylor made two free throws and a layup on UH’s next two possessions to cut the lead to 67-63 with 4:21 remaining.

Forward Ilda Chambe drained a jumper with 3:02 left, pushing UTEP’s lead to 69-63.

But both defenses tightened up from there. Neither team scored until Hill connected on two free throws with 1:12 left to reduce the Miners’ lead to 69-65.

Hughes stepped up on the Miners’ next possession, nailing a jumper that gave UTEP a 71-65 lead with 51 seconds left.

Hill responded with a bucket on the Cougars’ next possession to cut the Miners’ advantage to 71-67. Curl then called a timeout with 43 seconds remaining.

‘When we were in a timeout, I told them if they didn’t believe we could win this game let me know so I could sub in somebody who did,’ Curl said. ‘I believed we had a shot at winning, and we proved that.’

UH was forced to foul because time was running out, but UTEP guard Deitra Caldwell missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity. The Cougars grabbed the rebound, and point guard Porsche Landry drove down the lane and made a layup, pulling the Cougars within two points with 30 seconds remaining.

The Cougars fouled Hughes on the following possession, and she made both free throws to give UTEP a 73-69 lead with 27 seconds left.

Landry missed a layup on UH’s next possession, and Chambe pulled down the rebound for the Miners. Chambe was fouled immediately by Landry, but missed both of her free-throw attempts.

With the door still open, UH guard Brittney Scott hit a three-pointer from the corner, cutting the deficit to 73-72 with 11 seconds remaining.

UTEP guard Sviatlana Trukshanina nailed two free throws on the Miners’ next possession, forcing the Cougars to make a three to send the game into overtime. Unfortunately for the Cougars, guard Jasmine Johnson could not connect on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Hughes, playing in front of a national audience on CBS College Sports, showed why she was the preseason pick for C-USA Player of the Year, shooting 10-of-19 on her way to a game-high 26 points. She also had seven assists and three steals.

‘She’s proven to us that she is the player of the year (in C-USA),’ Curl said.

Taylor led the Cougars with 24 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, recording her 23rd career double-double. Hill added 17 points and nine rebounds, and Scott scored 15 points.

The Cougars, who are now 11-1 at home, will look to shake off the defeat when they host Southern Methodist at 7 p.m. Friday at Hofheinz Pavilion.

‘I’m going to tell the players that it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you handle it,’ Curl said. ‘I think we’ll handle this and get back (on track).’

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