POSTED: Monday, March 12, 2012 - 6:40pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 1:17pm
UTEP is dancing in Baton Rouge.
Conference USA regular-season & tournament champion UTEP will continue its record-setting season against nationally-ranked Penn State (No. 11 AP / No. 12 ESPN/USA Today) in the first round of the NCAA Championships at 3:15 p.m. MT in Baton Rouge, La. Sunday. The Miners (29-3) received a No. 13 seed in the Kingston Region while the regular-season Big Ten champion Lady Lions (24-6) were tabbed with the fourth seed.
The game will be broadcast on 1150 AM in El Paso, and fans can also get updates by following the Miners on Twitter (@UTEPWBB).
“We’re excited for us to be going dancing,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “It will be good for us to get back in the gym and get back to practicing, preparing for Penn State. They won the Big Ten championship so they will be a real good team."
UTEP will be making its second appearance in the NCAA Championships. The Miners earned an at-large bid and a No. 7 seed in the tournament during the 2007-08 season. UTEP blasted Western Kentucky, 92-60, in the first round on March 22, 2008, before bowing out to 1st/2nd-round host and eventual national champion runner-up Stanford, 88-54, on March, 24, 2008.
At 29-3, the Miners set both the school & C-USA single-season standard for victories in a season, including winning three times in as many days to score their first C-USA Tournament Championship title game triumph. A program-best 21 victories on the year have been by the double-digit variety.
Adams was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year while Gloria Brown (first team) and Kayla Thornton (second team) earned all-league honors. Brown also repeated as the C-USA Sixth Player of the Year while landing on the all-defensive team. She was also chosen as the Conference USA Tournament MVP and Thornton joined her on the all-tournament team.
There were early indications that the season would be special, as UTEP bolted out to a program-best 10-0. It dropped the next two games by a combined three points before peeling off 15 straight. After a four-point loss to Rice (2/28/12) the Miners have won four in row.
In order for the campaign to continue, though, the Orange and Blue will have to take down one of the finest squads in the nation. Penn State won its sixth Big Ten regular-season crown by forging a 13-3 mark in league play.
PSU guards Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley were both named to the All-Big Ten first team after averaging 19.1 and 14.2 ppg, respectively. Lucas rates second in the Big Ten in scoring and is among the top-25 in the NCAA in scoring, three-point field goal percentage (.411) and free throw percentage (.887).