UTEP didn't get it done.
With possible Top 25 ranking on the line against UAB, with first place in the conference at stake, with a season's-best start as the reward, with a 12-point second-half lead generated by a 26-4 run, the Miners let it all go on a lost offensive afternoon.
The Blazers (12-4, 3-0) closed the game 13-4 run, including the last four points, to win 61-57 and send the Miners to 14-2.
"Give them some credit, they played some good pressure defense," coach Keitha Adams said after her team's sixth loss in the last 49 games. "It was a hard-fought game; we played hard. UAB is a good team. We came up short at the end.
"They hit big shots, we struggled down the stretch."
UTEP lost despite a 57-33 rebounding advantage and because of a 28-percent shooting night that was more about poor offensive execution than it was missing open shots.
"We didn't execute like we should have," said Kelli Willingham, who was 3-of-11 from the field for eight points. "The first half we struggled, the second half we did better, but we still struggled.
"They are a good defensive team, but at the end of the day, we have to do what we have to do. We came out big (early in the second half), we took the lead, but some things down the stretch hurt us."
Trailing by 10 late in the first half, UTEP came out hot to start the second period, but after bolting out to a 49-37 lead, reverted to their form of the rest of the night and stalled.
Trailing 59-57 with 11 seconds left, Kayla Thornton (20 points, 11 rebounds) missed a contested, long 3-pointer; UAB rebounded and closed the game out with a pair of Ashley Grimes free throws..
"It was a last-minute shot; I tried to get myself open. It didn't go down," Thornton said. "Several other things led up to that. We were up 12, they came back. Little things.
"They are a good team, but I believe we should have had this game."
After shooting 20 percent from the field in the first half, UTEP was in position to do that after Willingham and Thornton each hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first five possessions of the second half, and when Thornton stole an inbounds pass and went in for a layup, UTEP was up 49-37 with 11:17 left.
But this was a game of runs both ways, and UAB quickly answered with 11 consecutive points to get within 49-48 with 6:24 left, and it was tight the rest of the way.
During that charge, the Miners had eight consecutive empty trips and most of them didn't result in a good look against the league's best defensive team.
UAB had runs of 10, seven, 10 and 11 points. UTEP had runs of nine, seven and 13 points.
But it was a four-point run that won it.
With the game tied at 57-57 with 1:40 to play, Anete Steinberga (14 points, 11 rebounds), missed a tough jumper, and on the other end UTEP lost Kayla Anderson, who took a pass from Khalilah Anderson (six assists) for an easy layup.
Irena Gari missed a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left, then after a UTEP stop, Thornton missed the big 3.
"I would have loved it if it had gone in," Adams said. "We had run that play, Irene had scored off of it, we had a couple of really good looks, the ball was in Kayla's hands and we had Anita on the block. I'll let those guys play a two-man game.
"We've hit a lot of those; she was open."
In the end, though, that possession went like so many others did.
"We didn't make key plays on offense. They made some big baskets, hit some big 3s," Adams said. "Our defense was good enough; our offense didn't come through. ...
"We shot 28 percent from the field and lost by four."
That is the epitaph on this one and on UTEP's top 25 hopes.
Bret Bloomquist may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6359. Follow him on Twitter @bretbloomquist