UTEP outlasted host UAB, 62-59, in a wild overtime contest in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Conference USA Championships at Bartow Arena Thursday.
The game appeared destined for double overtime when Chelsee Black, who led UAB with a game-high 19 points, banked in a halfcourt shot at the buzzer. But after an official review, it was determined that the shot came after time expired to send the Miners (26-3) dancing into the semifinals.
UTEP Head Coach Keitha Adams said, “We were telling our girls to foul, but I don’t think they heard me. And when she hit that shot, it reiterated why we fouled them and didn’t let them shoot threes. During the break we started talking about how we’re going to prepare for the next overtime but then when they called the game over I thanked the Lord above. UAB plays great defense, and they deserve credit in the game today.”
UAB Head Coach Randy Norton added, “It was a heartbreaker, but I asked my senior to leave their hearts on the court. I have loved coaching Chelsee every moment that I’ve had her. I wanted this so bad and to move on. We really believed we could win this tournament.”
UAB got back-to-back buckets to start overtime to take its largest lead (54-50) of the contest but the Miners dug deep for an answer. It came in the form of consecutive three pointers, with Starr Breedlove (10 points) and Lulu McKinney (11 points) delivering clutch shots to vault UTEP back ahead (56-54) with 2:31 remaining in the extra session.
It proved to be an advantage that the top seed would not relinquish. T’erra Lewis sunk a couple of free throws to forge the fifth and final tie of the game with 70 seconds remaining, but Jenzel Nash (11 points) hit free throws on the next two possessions to put UTEP back ahead.
Even when McKinney drilled two free throws to give the Miners a four-point lead (61-57) with just 22 seconds left, UAB refused to quit. Kayla Anderson (six points, 10 rebounds) had an offensive rebound and puback to bring her squad within two (61-59) with seven seconds left.
Breedlove was fouled and couldn’t convert on either try but Chrishauna Parker (five points, 10 boards) skied in for an offensive board. She hit the first but missed the second, allowing the Blazers a chance. Brittany Winborne (13 points, 13 rebounds) got the board and found a streaking Black to set the stage for the dramatic finish.
“It was a nail biter, but now have to turn the page and get ready for the next game. We stayed together as a team, and believed the whole game. We never once got down, and staying together as a team really helped us.” Breedlove said.
UAB guard Chelsee Black simply said, “I thought I had a storybook ending, but as bad as it hurts I know I left everything on the court. When Coach Norton got here we were kind of trying to figure him out, but now when we did it has been fun. I am satisfied with my time at UAB, and it hurts now but I gave it everything I had.”
It was a hard-fought battle, with both the Miners (26-69, 33.3 percent) and Blazers (22-63, 34.9 percent) shooting worse than 35 percent from the floor. UAB won the boards, 45-44, but UTEP compensated by forcing 18 turnovers that led to 15 points.
UTEP will play the victor of (4) Charlotte and (5) Old Dominion at 10 a.m. CT in a nationally-televised tilt (CBS Sports Network) inside Legacy Arena.
Author: Conference USA