Marshall (12-11, 4-5 C-USA) found itself up 42-38 with under 15 minutes remaining in the game, however, UTEP (18-2, 9-0 C-USA) runs of 10-2 and 7-0 would give the Miners a lead they would not relinquish.
UTEP used those second half runs to gain a lead as large as nine points with 2:16 left in the game, however Marshall made it interesting down the stretch, forcing turnovers in two consecutive possessions to cut the lead to three, but the Miners scored five points in the final 22 seconds to escape with the win.
Marshall's Melody Hudson and Meagan Samis applied defensive pressure to UTEP's Izabela Piekarska. Piekarska turned the ball over in a late-game Marshall rally. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Head coach Royce Chadwick was proud of the effort on the floor and stressed how just a few plays could have changed the outcome of the game. "I thought our kids played exceptionally hard. I thought that we didn't play as crisply as we needed to down the stretch defensively because they can make plays one-on-one and they did it over and over again," Chadwick said following the game.
"We did a lot of good things. I told them that we were three plays away and when you look at 90 opportunities to make a play at both ends of the floor. We don't have much further to go to get to where we want to be."
From the start, the Thundering Herd showed that it was up to the task of playing with the two-loss Miners, taking a 14-6 lead nine minutes into the game. With the score tied 6-6 at the 15:37 mark, MU kept the Miners off of the scoreboard for nearly five minutes while extending their lead to eight, the most it would be all game.
Alyssa Hammond drove past UTEP's Izabela Piekarska to score two of her 18 points on Wednesday night. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
The Miners showed their scoring ability at that point, registering the next nine points to take a 15-14 lead. That run came over a span of only one minute and twelve seconds. Over the next four minutes, the teams swapped the lead five times, with Marshall eventually jumping out to a 26-21 lead with 3:48 left in the half. UTEP made its second major run of the game, finishing the half on a 7-1 run to find itself ahead, 28-27, at halftime.
Marshall started the second half in the same fashion as it did in the opening stanza, grabbing a 29-28 lead just 22 seconds into the period. The lead would be extended to 42-38 with just under 15 minutes remaining. That is where UTEP would take over the game, holding the Herd to just two points over the next seven minutes while scoring ten of their own to take a 48-44 lead.
A lay-up by Kizzy Hart brought the Herd within two points, 48-46, with 7:52 left, but yet another spurt by the Miners, this one in the form of a 7-0 run, gave them a 55-46 lead, their largest of the game at the 2:16 mark.
Just when it looked like the Miners clinched the win, the Herd made a final effort to knock them off. After Casey Baker connected on two free throws to cut the lead to seven points, Izabela Piekarska was forced into a turnover, which would lead to a lay-up by Casey Baker. Just seconds later, Meagan Samis forced Kasia Krezel into a steal. On that possession, a foul by Timika Williams sent Alyssa Hammond to the line. Hammond hit both shots to cut the lead to three.
On UTEP's next trip down the floor, Piekarska missed her first three-pointer of the game. Casey Baker grabbed the rebound, but was unable to hold onto it, as the ball went out of bounds and back to the Miners. Krezel made the Herd pay, hitting a three, to extend the lead to six. The teams traded points in the final seconds, but the Herd would get no closer as UTEP would escape with the 60-54 win.
Alyssa Hammond had one of the top outings of her career, tallying a season-high 18 points while grabbing six boards. She was stellar from the charity stripe, hitting eight out of nine shots, tying her career mark for made free throws.
Casey Baker and Alix Barnette joined Hammond in double figures, notching 11 apiece. Along with her 11 points, Baker recorded seven rebounds, five assists and four steals while hitting 5-of-6 shots from the free throw line. Barnette, who was a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point range in the first half, scored all of her points in the opening half.
Piekarska led all players with 20 points. She was a solid 8-of-11 from the field, but did most of her damage beyond-the-arc, hitting four out of five three-points shots. Kasia Krezel scored 13 points while Timika Williams added 12. Williams, along with Natasha Lacy recorded a game-high eight rebounds.
Following a first half that saw the teams combine for a total of 30 turnovers, the second half featured only 16. UTEP forced the Herd into 25 while committing 21 of their own. The Miners also finished with a 42-39 advantage on the glass.
A pivotal stretch now awaits the Herd, as it looks to finish the season on a high note heading into the C-USA Tournament. It will travel to Tulane for a 2 p.m. contest on Sunday before returning home for its final four home games of the season. Over the next two weekends, Marshall will welcome UCF, Southern Miss, Memphis and UAB to the Cam Henderson Center.