EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP (19-10, 12-8 Conference USA) women’s basketball will go toe-to-toe with Louisiana Tech (19-11, 12-8 Conference USA) on Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the Conference USA Championships at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas on Thursday.
The fourth-seeded Miners got a first-round bye and will start the C-USA Tournament one step closer to playing in the championship game. The Miners will need to string together a pair of wins in order to play in the tournament’s final game. First, they will need to get past No. 5 Louisiana Tech.
UTEP swept the regular season series with the Lady Techsters, winning 62-54 to open conference play in Ruston on Dec. 18 and protecting the home court with a 72-66 triumph in El Paso on Jan. 7. Overall, LA Tech leads the head-to-head series 16-10. This is the third meeting in the conference tournament. Most recently, UTEP won 81-72 in the 2014 quarterfinals. LA Tech came out on top 74-47 in the semifinals of the 2004 WAC Tournament.
“Those were two tough games that we played against Louisiana Tech. They’re a very good team, and other than us, they’re probably one of the hottest teams in the league right now,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “Everybody says it’s hard to beat a team three times, but if you ask me, going in to play an opponent, if I’d rather have already beaten them twice or already lost them twice, that’s a pretty easy answer. It’s one of those things where we know we can beat them and they’re sitting around the gym wondering if they can beat us.”
“Those games ended close. Obviously, we just have to end up closing games in the tournament. That’s what it’s all about,” UTEP junior guard Jazion Jackson said. “The strongest team, they always come out with the win, so just us being able to close the game out like we have done previously in the season. I think that’s just our main thing coming into the tournament.”
UTEP will head into the C-USA Championships on a two-game losing streak. Those two losses the Miners suffered last week came against the two top teams in the conference: Western Kentucky and No. 24 Middle Tennessee. Both games were decided by four points or less.
“It felt like we were a step slow in both games,” Jackson said. “The mistakes we made were easy fixes I believe. It is just about coming out, playing the same game, and being who we are as a team.”
UTEP has tied a program record by playing in 21 games decided by single digits this season. Overall, the Miners are 13-8 in such contests. In conference action, 16 of the 20 contests were decided by nine points or less. In those C-USA affairs, UTEP is 9-7, with six of those losses coming by a combined 16 points.
Louisiana Tech will enter the Conference Championships on a two-game winning streak. Louisiana Tech picked up two wins in the Sunshine State against FIU (Mar. 2) and Florida Atlantic (Mar. 4) last week.
UTEP and Louisiana Tech will play each other in the quarterfinals of the C-USA Championships on Thursday. Tipoff is at 10:30 a.m. MT/11:30 a.m. CST at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
With a win, UTEP would play a semifinal on Friday at 3:30 p.m. MT/4:30 p.m. CT. That game would be vs. either No. 1 Middle Tennessee, No. 8 FIU or No. 9 Charlotte. The Lady Raiders have a bye into the quarterfinals and await the winner of the Panthers vs. 49ers clash on Wednesday.