UTEP forced 18 turnovers and held Abilene Christian to 27.6 percent shooting on the way to a 66-62 victory in the first round of the WNIT in front of 4,517 fans at the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening.
The Miners (27-4) advance to the round of 32, and will play host to Arkansas State (27-5) at 7:05 p.m. Monday. The visiting Wildcats (26-4) did all they could to prevent that, putting together a 12-0 run in the fourth quarter to grab their first lead of the contest at 52-49 with 5:18 to play.
But UTEP, which extended its school-record home winning streak to 17 games, had an answer. The Miners, spurred on by the roaring 4,500+ fans, struck back with a 9-1 surge over the next three minutes to regain control. ACU, which had an eight-game unbeaten streak snapped, continued to battle down the stretch but UTEP hit 7-8 at the free throw line late to hold on for the victory.
Senior Starr Breedlove tallied nine of her team-high 16 points in the final frame to lead the way but she had some help as well. Tamara Seda posted her first career double-double (10 points, career-high 11 rebounds) to provide a big lift off the bench while senior Cameasha Turner nearly duplicated the feat (12 points, seven boards).
“It was a great win and we gutted it out in front of a great crowd,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “I’m very impressed with Abilene Christian’s team. I’m very proud of team and proud of El Paso. We’d love to get 12,222 out here Monday night and rock the Don!”
UTEP drilled 44.1 percent (26-59) from the floor, registering 12 assists on those buckets. The Miners also enjoyed big advantages in points in the paint (44-18), fastbreak points (16-0) and bench scoring (25-7) to hold off the talented Wildcat squad.
Suzzy Dimba (17 points, 15 rebounds) led a quartet of ACU players in double figures for scoring. The Wildcats showed good patience against UTEP’s pressure defense, but still struggled to knock down shots and take care of the ball. They nearly compensated for those shortcomings by getting to the line early and often, but couldn’t get enough shots to go there either. ACU finished at 64.9 percent (24-37) from the charity stripe while UTEP was at 50.0 percent (13-26) in that department.
UTEP fed off the crowd to jump out to an early lead, forcing ACU to call timeout just a minute and a half into the contest. The Wildcats clawed back within one (8-7, 5:56 1Q) before UTEP ripped off a 9-1 run, capped by a Seda lay-up to grab a 17-8 advantage with 2:41 to play in the first period.
The two teams traded mini runs in the second quarter but UTEP closed with on the upswing to hold a 30-23 lead at halftime.
The Miners pushed the advantage out to as many as nine (34-25) in the third quarter but ACU kept fighting back. It was a five-point advantage after a pair of Breedlove free throws but Southland Conference Player of the Year Alexis Mason nail a triple to pull her squad within two (43-41) through three quarters of action.
UTEP scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to push the margin back to eight (49-41) but the Wildcats made things interesting with the big run. The Miners, though, had enough left in the tank to survive and move on.
Author: UTEP Athletics