POSTED: Thursday, January 6, 2011 - 11:38pm
UPDATED: Thursday, January 6, 2011 - 11:50pm
Behind a school-record-setting performance at the free-throw line, the UTEP women’s basketball team downed East Carolina, 89-80, in the Conference USA opener for both teams at the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening.
The Miners (9-4, 1-0 C-USA) set single-game school standards for free throws made (40) and attempted (54), with junior Gloria Brown (12-of-12) and sophomore Anete Steinberga (11-of-16) leading the way in the department.
The Pirates (6-8, 0-1 C-USA) drilled 27-of-36 tries at the charity stripe, in a contest that was marred by a program-record combined 63 fouls between the two teams. The 67 overall makes and 90 total attempts from the charity stripe also establish combined single-game standards at the school. ECU was tagged with 36 infractions, which equals the most fouls by a Miner opponent in a contest. Five different players fouled out for the Pirates. UTEP was whistled for 27 fouls, and two different individuals fouled out.
With the victory the Orange and Blue improve to 5-2 in league openers since 2005, including 4-1 at home. Furthermore, it marks the 275 career win as a collegiate head coach for Keitha Adams. Adams now stands at 275-170, including 148-133 at UTEP, in what is her 15th year on the sideline.
“Free throws win ball games,” Adams said. “Tonight is a great example of that. It is a really good win for us. East Carolina is very athletic and competitive. I am very proud of our team tonight.”
The Miners out-rebounded the Pirates, 42-36, and held an advantage of 17-9 on second-chance points. Four different players reached double figures in scoring for the Orange and Blue. Steinberga led the way with 17 points, with freshman Kelli Willingham (15 points), Brown (14) and junior guard Dietra Caldwell (12 points also getting in on the act. Overall UTEP connected on 42.3 percent from the field (22-of-52), despite hitting on only 22.7 percent (5-of-22) from distance.
It was an all-around attack for the visiting side, with a quartet of players hitting double-digits in points. Ashley Clarke tallied a game-high 20 points, while Ariana Jackson (16 points), Kim Gay (12 points) and Allison Spivey (11 points) also getting in on the act. ECU sunk 40 percent of its shots (24-60), but was ultimately done in by its inability to rebound and the bombardment at the free-throw line.
ECU took a 2-0 lead off a jumper by Gay six seconds into the contest but the Miners responded with a 10-1 run to grab a 10-3 edge with 17:58 to play in the first half. Caldwell afforded UTEP its initial double-digit lead of the contest (17-6) after drilling a triple at 15:27.
The Miners’ edge remained 11 (30-19) with 7:04 to play in the opening period before ECU came alive. The Pirates powered their way back ahead, riding a 19-6 run to stake a 38-36 lead with 1:18 left. UTEP pushed back, scoring six straight points at the charity stripe to secure a 42-38 advantage entering the locker room.
The momentum for the home side carried into the second stanza. It scored the first nine points of the period en route to a 51-38 edge at 17:19. East Carolina fought back, and whittled the deficit down to four (60-56) with 10:45 on the clock. The Miners kept their composure, and countered with a demoralizing 10-0 run over the next three minutes and 20 seconds. The surge gave UTEP its largest lead of the contest (70-56), and ECU would get no closer than six down the stretch.
UTEP will play the first of eight C-USA road games when it heads to the Eastern Time Zone to battle Marshall at 3 p.m. MT on Sunday. The contest will be carried live nationally on CBS College Sports. The Miners will be looking to improve to 8-3 in nationally-televised games under Adams.