POSTED: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 11:45pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 11:52pm
Senior forward Gloria Brown poured in 21 points while grabbing nine rebounds and blocking eight shots (third-most in program history) to help lead the UTEP women’s basketball team to a thrilling 76-72 overtime victory at New Mexico State in the SONIC® ® America’s Drive-In® battle of I-10 inside the Pan-American Center Wednesday evening.
The Aggies (1-2) scored the first two points of OT before the Miners (2-0) ripped off nine straight to surge ahead, 70-63, with 3:03 to play. NM State eventually whittled the margin down to two (74-72) but junior Melisa Mendes came up with a clutch steal and sank a pair of free throws with six seconds left to seal the win.
“What a game by Gloria Brown,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “She had a phenomenal game. We’re fortunate to get out of the building with the win. Give credit to New Mexico State for playing extremely hard. We’re happy that we won but we know we have to get better.”
For most of the game it seemed as if overtime would not be necessary, with NM State controlling things. The Aggies led by as many as nine on two occasions, and were up, 49-43, with 9:27 to play in the second half. UTEP regrouped and rallied behind the play of Brown and company. The Miners utilized a 17-3 run over the next seven-plus minutes on the way to surging into the lead (60-52).
To its credit, NM State countered and closed out regulation on 9-1 run to force overtime. Kaitlyn Soto went coast-to-coast to convert a layup at the buzzer, taking advantage of Mendes missing the front end of a one-and-one. Mendes had the last laugh, however, with her big plays down the stretch in the extra session.
Freshman Chrishauna Parker delivered 11 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes in her first career start while Mendes chipped in nine points. Junior Kristine Vitola came through with eight points-including six in OT- to go along with eight rebounds. NM State doubled Brown in the extra session, and she burned them with a trio of assists.
The Miners shot 45.5 percent (30-66) from the floor, including 53.6 percent (15-28) during the second stanza. They hit on 38.9 percent (7-18) from three-point land. Free throws were an area of concern, with UTEP making 9-of-15, including 1-of-4 in the final 30 seconds of the second half, but it proved to be a moot point due to the overall effort in OT.
Adams’ charges made the Aggies work for everything they got, who shot 38.2 percent (21-55) while committing 20 turnovers. The home side compensated for that, though, by drilling 23-of-28 attempts at the free-throw line and winning the rebounding battle, 41-35. Hannah Womack led the Aggies with a game-high 23 points while Jasmine Rutledge finished with 16 and Erica Sanchez chipped in 10 points.
The Orange and Blue out-scored NM State, 38-12, in points in the paint while also enjoying a 19-13 advantage in points off turnovers.
UTEP will start a five-game homestand by playing host to Houston Baptist at 7:05 p.m. MST on Saturday. Fans can receive free admission to the game by showing their ticket from the UTEP football team's game against Tulsa (1 p.m. MST Saturday).