UTEP Women Earn C-USA Victory at SMU


POSTED: Thursday, January 5, 2012 - 10:54pm

UPDATED: Thursday, January 5, 2012 - 11:40pm

Gloria Brown posted her third consecutive double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds), Kelli Willingham added 16 points and UTEP crushed SMU on the boards in a 64-53 win inside Moody Coliseum in the Conference USA opener for both squads Thursday evening.

The Miners (12-2, 1-0 Conference USA) out-rebounded the Mustangs (7-7, 0-1 C-USA), 52-28,including a dominant readout of 32-9 in the second half. The effort afforded UTEP an advantage of 15-4 on second-chance points, with 13 of those points coming over the final 20 minutes.

UTEP is now 6-2 in league openers dating to the 2004-05 season.

“Rebounding was the difference in the game,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “Moody Coliseum is never an easy place to play. It was great to have some support from the Miner alum/fans here in Dallas. It is a good way to start off conference play.”

The Miners led 28-27 at the break but SMU scored the first six points of the second stanza to stake a 33-28 advantage with 18:07 to play. UTEP regrouped and used a 13-3 surge to regain the lead, one it would never relinquish.

The home side eventually got within two (55-53) with 3:10 remaining in regulation but the Miners played with poise down the stretch, scoring the final nine points of the contest to close it out in style.

While Brown and Willingham did the lion’s share of the scoring, there were several other standouts for the Orange and Blue. Kristine Vitola contributed nine points and eight boards in her first game back from an illness. Chrishauna Parker tallied nine points and snared six rebounds in her third straight start while Erika Warren came off the bench to chip in seven points and five rebounds.

Willingham kept SMU honest defensively by going 4-of-6 from three-point land while also running the offense effectively in a season-high 38 minutes. UTEP made 67 percent of its free throws, including 5-of-6 in the final minute to ice the game.

At the other end of the court it was business as usual for the Orange and Blue, who made SMU work for everything it got.

The Mustangs got off to a good start offensively by scoring 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting over the first three minutes of the game, but the Miners adjusted quickly. SMU connected on just 14-of-47 from that point on, and finished at 35.2 percent (19-of-54).

Akil Simpson tallied a team-high 15 points for the Mustangs while Heidi Brandenburg pitched in 11 points. No other Mustang managed more than eight points, with the Orange and Blue making SMU work for everything it got.

The two sides traded baskets early on, before SMU ran off six in a row to take an 11-5 lead. The Miners answered with a 6-0 run of their own, which was capped by a solid move in the paint by Brown. It was back-and-forth over the next several minutes, with both defenses making it very tough. UTEP found some rhythm late to carry the aforementioned one-point advantage into the locker room.

After the early push by SMU in the second half, the Miners settled in and controlled the contest from that point on.

UTEP will be back in action for its Conference USA home opener when it plays host to Memphis in a nationally-televised tilt (Fox Sports Networks) at 11 a.m. MST Sunday.

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