EL PASO, Texas - UTEP scored 40 points at the free throw line Thursday, using them to push past East Carolina in the Conference USA opener for both teams. The Miners improve to 9-4 overall and 8-2 at home while the Pirates fall to 6-8 and 3-2 on the road.
ECU was whistled for 37 fouls in the contest, the most ever by a Miner opponent, which led to 54 attempts at the line for UTEP while the Pirates had 37 tries of their own. The 54 attempts were just six shy of the Pirates' total from the field.
The Miners were slightly better in the shooting department, putting up a 42-percent showing as compared to 40 percent for the visitors. UTEP also had the upper hand rebounding, grabbing 42 rebounds and holding East Carolina to 36. The Pirates did grab nine steals in the affair while allowing UTEP just two.
Sophomore Ariana Jackson picked up her second career double-double and second this season, scoring 16 points to go along with a career-best matching 12 boards. Three other East Carolina players scored in double figures, with Ashley Clarke netting a game-high 20 points and Kim Gay and Allison Spivey putting in 12 and 11, respectively. Additionally, Clarke pocketed five steals while Spivey dished out five assists.
UTEP raced out to a 14-5 lead at the 15:49 mark with four points from Ashley Milian. The advantage stayed essentially the same over the next four minutes as the Miners led 23-13 after an Anete Steinberga layup.
UTEP kept pushing, going ahead by double figures at 30-19 when Dietra Caldwell put in a layup, but ECU answered with a 15-4 run down to the 2:31 mark as Shala Hodges knocked down a pair at the line. The charity stripe was kind to the Miners down the stretch as they would score eight-straight points there to assume a 42-38 lead at the break.
Ariana Jackson led the Pirate offense with eight points in the first 20 minutes while Kim Gay and Chareya Smith contributed seven each. Jackson also pulled down a team-high four rebounds. East Carolina knocked down 13 of 26 attempts from the field to shoot 50-percent in the period while UTEP was just behind at 41 percent (12-for-29).
The Miners held the upper hand at the beginning of the second half, pushing out to a 51-42 lead with the clock showing 15:48. A three-point field goal by Allison Spivey cut the lead down to 55-50 at the 12:21 mark, but UTEP went on a 15-6 run over the next five or so minutes to essentially put the game out of reach. The Miner lead would grow to as much as 14 before ECU was able to cut it to six in the final minute. Milian would race to the basket with two seconds remaining and put in a layup that provided the final nine-point margin.
The Pirates return home to Minges Coliseum Sunday, hosting Memphis at 1 p.m.