WKU jumped out to a 20-point advantage in the first half on Thursday evening and closed out a 71-54 victory over UTEP inside the Don Haskins Center to claim its fifth straight win and 10th win in its last 11 outings.
Tashia Brown led WKU (15-5, 7-1 C-USA) with 13 points on the evening and was joined in double figures by Kendall Noble (12) and Ivy Brown (10). Malaka Frank had a game-high eight rebounds and Noble dished out a game-high nine assists, all of which came in the opening half of play.
Sparkle Taylor paced all players with 23 points for the Miners (5-14, 2-5 C-USA) and added a team-best seven boards. No other UTEP player reached double figures in scoring.
The game remained a one-possession affair throughout much of the first quarter as neither side could gain more than three points of separation. Down 11-9, WKU finally broke through with 10 straight points to end the opening 10 minutes; Kayla Smith keyed the run with five straight points, Micah Jones added a three-pointer from the top of the key and Frank burned the entire shot clock before spinning in for a layup with two seconds remaining to give WKU a 19-11 advantage.
The Lady Toppers maintained their double-digit lead through the first five minutes of the second quarter before using another big run to go up by as many as 23 points. Holding a 27-16 edge with 5:20 to play before the halftime break, WKU used a 14-2 stretch over the next four minutes spurred by six points from Ivy Brown and a pair of three-pointers from Jones and Jaycee Coe to grab a 41-18 lead over the Miners.
UTEP’s Lulu McKinney knocked down a three-pointer before the break, but WKU carried a 41-21 lead into the locker room.
In the third quarter, UTEP trimmed its deficit to just 15 points after a quick 6-0 run midway through the frame. Taylor knocked down all three shots during the stretch for the Miners to cut WKU’s advantage to 53-38 with 3:40 on the clock.
After again closing with 15 points, 55-40, just over one minute later, WKU’s offense clicked over the final two and a half minutes of the quarter, ending the period on a 6-0 run for the Lady Toppers. Noble tallied four points during the quick burst, while Frank capped the run with a pair of free throws to carry a 61-40 edge into the final 10 minutes.
Over the last 10 minutes, UTEP managed to trim the lead under 20 points but could not come any closer than 17 points. Despite being outscored by a 14-10 margin in the period, WKU maintained its big lead through the final buzzer in the 71-54 victory.
WKU will return to action on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. (CT) as the Lady Toppers close out their Texas road trip at UTSA. The Lady Toppers own a 1-1 record all-time against the Roadrunners and will be looking to avenge a 64-63 defeat inside the UTSA Convention Center two seasons ago.
How to Follow the Lady Toppers: For complete information on WKU Lady Topper Basketball, visit WKUSports.com or follow the program via social media @LadyTopperHoops on Twitter, @LadyTopperHoops on Instagram and on Facebook at facebook.com/WKUWomensBasketball.
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Currie P. McFayden
WKU Associate Director of Media Relations