Trailing by 10 (48-38) with 5:27 to play, UTEP dug deep and finished the game on a 14-2 run to topple previously unbeaten Kansas State, 52-50, at Bramlage Coliseum Sunday afternoon.
Kayla Thornton (15 points, 14 rebounds) and Chrishauna Parker (13 points, 11 boards) posted double-doubles while Anete Steinberga (13 points, 8 rebounds)and Kelli Willingham (7 points, three steals) also made several big plays to help propel the Miners (9-1) to their third win in as many tries against power conference schools this year.
The effort also snaps a 17-game home winning streak against non-conference foes for the Wildcats (7-1), who also suffered just their 10th such loss of the Deb Patterson era. It is now 100-10 in the situation during Patterson's 17-year tenure.
“We just kept playing hard even when things weren’t going well on offense,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “I’m so proud of my team and the effort.”
It was a defensive battle throughout tilt, not to mention a contrast of styles. KSU, which was held to 29.2 percent (19-of65) from the floor, was content to fire away from three-point range. While it did nail nine three pointers, the reliance on the shot proved costly down the stretch. It was just 1-of-8 in the decisive final 5:27, with six of those misses coming from distance.
While UTEP's offense had some challenges- evidenced by an overall readout of 32.1 (17-of-53) from the floor- it was much more balanced than the Wildcats. The Miners played both inside and out, evidenced by a 26-16 advantage in points in the paint. UTEP also attacked the rim with plenty of aggressiveness, resulting in going 16-of-26 at the free-throw line.
That style also paid dividends with a 47-38 advantage on rebounds.
KSU was just 3-of-8 at the charity stripe, as it never made it a priority to take it to the hole.
Leading scorer Brittany Chambers did sustain an injury early in the game, but KSU appeared to be in good shape. Bri Craig (12 points) and Haley Texada (12 points) stepped up in her place, and the home side also got off to a great start.
KSU raced out to respective leads of 7-0 and 16-4 but as was the case throughout the entire tilt, the Miners would not quit. UTEP regrouped and whittled the deficit down to just four (25-21) heading into halftime.
The Minors then opened up the second-half back-to-back buckets, forcing the initial tie of the contest.
KSU had an answer, however, using a 6-0 run and later and 8-0 surge to grab a 39- 28 advantage with 10:12 to play. UTEP continued to claw away, trimming the deficit to five (41-36) only to have the Wildcats bounce back to reinstate a double-digit lead.
Undeterred, the visitors made one final push. It proved to be the pivotal sequence, with the Miners executing well at both ends of the court.
Steinberga started it with a jumper, followed by consecutive treys by Willingham to make it 48-46 KSU with 3:05 left. The Wildcats stopped the sequences with a layup by Ashia Woods at 1:24, but the Orange and Blue struck back.
Willingham set up Steinberga for a lay-up, which she converted while being fouled. She missed the ensuing free throw but Thornton secured the offensive board and banked it off the glass to tie the game at 50 with 1:01 left.
UTEP defended with tenacity and forced Texada to misfire on a three pointer. Thornton came down with the rebound and immediately bolted up the court. She took it coast-to-coast and was fouled with 27 seconds to play. She missed the first but sunk the second to afford UTEP its initial lead (51-50) of the game.
KSU went back on the attack with a chance to regain the lead but Craig’s three didn’t fall. Willingham came down with the rebound and proceeded to split two free throws with 12 seconds to go.
The Wildcats inbounded the ball and elected to play it out, instead of calling a timeout as time ticked off. The decision backfired with confusion leading to Texada throwing a bad pass that was stolen by Willingham.
She dribbled out the final two seconds, allowing UTEP to emerge with the huge victory.
The Miners will look to push their winning streak to five while also staying unbeaten at home when they play host to New Mexico at 7:05 p.m. MST Thursday.