UTEP Women Roll Into Semi-Finals
Five different Miners posted double-figure scoring totals as top-seeded UTEP toppled Southern Miss, 92-79, in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Conference USA Championships Thursday evening.
The Miners (27-3) advance to square off against No. 4 seed UAB (19-10) in the nationally-televised semifinals contest (CBS Sports Network) at 11:30 a.m. MST at the at the FedExForum Friday. The Lady Eagles, which entered the game with a record of 7-2 since the start of February, conclude their 2011-12 campaign at 13-18 overall.
UTEP was clicking on all cylinders offensively, with its 92 points equaling the school’s single-game postseason high. The Miners also did so vs. Western Kentucky in the 92-60 NCAA Tournament first-round triumph on March 22, 2008.
The Orange and Blue drilled 52.8 percent of their shots (28-of-53), which checks in as the second-highest readout in postseason play at the school. The Miners were locked in from distance, nailing 9-of-20 (.450) from beyond-the-arc, which matches the most makes from distance in their postseason game.
First-Team All-Conference member & two-time Sixth Player of the Year Gloria Brown came off the bench to tally 19 points while also pulling down six rebounds and blocking three shots. Senior Erika Warren erupted for 17 points- her second-highest output on the year- followed by Kelli Willingham with 13, Kayla Thornton with 11 and Anete Steinberga with 10.
Thornton posted the game’s lone double-double with 10 rebounds to go with her point production while sharing team-high block honors with Brown. Willingham led UTEP with five assists and both Brown and Melissa Mendes had two of the team’s eight thefts.
UTEP out-rebounded Southern Miss, 42-33, and turned 12 offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points. The Miners also took care of business at the free-throw line, knocking down 27-of-36 attempts.
UTEP got off to a red-hot start and scored the first six points of the game. Southern Miss rallied with a 13-5 run to take a 13-11 lead 4:50 into the contest and held a four-point edge at 20-16 just under two minutes later.
The 2012 regular-season champions had an answer, though, in the form of a 5-0 run. Mendes drilled a triple to cut the deficit to one and the Miners went ahead for good on a Warren lay-up with 12:18 to go before the break.
UTEP’s advantage swelled to as many as 10 at 40-30 with 3:34 on the clock and it remained a double-digit affair at halftime as the Miners went into the locker room on top 48-38.
The UTEP lead remained in double digits for the bulk of the second half, and the Miners led by as many as 17 at 79-62 with 5:13 left to play.
To its credit Southern Miss continued to fight hard, and whittled the deficit down to eight after a rare four-point play to make it 84-76. UTEP regrouped and put the game on ice by accounting for the next eight points.
Jamierra Faulkner tallied a game-high 27 points to pace Southern Miss while Tanecka Carey pitched in 17 and Sedreka Plummer finished with 16.