TSU (0-4) will undoubtedly go through some growing pains in the non-conference schedule as they find their identity on the court with so many freshmen, sophomores and juniors that occupy the roster, but outings like Gray had tonight will help the rest of the puzzle to fall into place before too long.
In just four games as a Tiger, Gray has gone from scoring two against UT Arlington, seven at home against Old Dominion, 13 at Stephen F. Austin and now 26 at UTEP.
Down 6-2 early, TSU got a jumper by Kamryn Bates to start a mini-scoring run at the 7:13 mark of the first quarter. A basket by Taniya Lawson and an Alyssa Knight jumper assisted by Mykaylyn Davis would draw the Tigers level with UTEP (4-0) at 8-8 with 4:01 left in the opening period. Both teams traded baskets including a jumper by TSU’s Tania Hill with 3:11 left in the first for a 10-10 tie before UTEP began a 17-4 run spanning the final 3:11 of the first and 3:57 into the second to put the Miners up 27-14 with 6:03 before the half.
The game of runs continued as TSU drew to within 29-22 with an 8-2 run as Alisa Knight put the team on her back scoring six consecutive of her own to start the run with three free throws and a three-point basket assisted by Anela Thomas. The Miners would then use one final large run of 17-5 before halftime to all but put the game away.
UTEP all but lived at the free throw line in the third quarter by scoring 12 of its 18 points in the quarter from the charity stripe. UTEP in the third quarter led 18-13 despite shooting just 3-for-13 from the field and 0-for-2 from long range but was 12-for-16 from the free throw line. Down 64-42 at the start of the fourth quarter, TSU used a three-pointer from Donterria Brown off an assist from Gray as well as trio of free throws from Gray to cut the UTEP lead down to 64-48 with 7:48 to go. The Tigers would go on to win the fourth quarter 23-16 thanks to a fantastic shooting clinic from all the facets of scoring. TSU was 6-for-13 from the field as well as an amazing 4-for-7 from long range and 7-of-8 from the free throw line. Down 80-59 later in the fourth, TSU collected the final six points of the contest on four free throws (two each from Gray and Thomas) and a made layup from Brown for the final 80-65 margin.
Gray would finish the night going 8-for-21 from the field including 2-for-8 from three-point land and 8-for-9 at the charity stripe to go along with four assists and two rebounds.
Lawson added 11 points for the Tigers in their first contest against UTEP since November 25, 2017.
Jaida Belton may have only scored four points, but her contributions in other aspects of the game kept her on the floor enough to play 18 minutes. Belton led TSU in rebounding with eight clearances as well as having three assists, a block and a steal.
The Tigers will have a couple days to prepare for a road trip on Sunday, Nov. 20, when they travel to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m. CST.