March 8, 2012
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - It was a game that featured a little bit of everything: 171 combined points, 53 total baskets, 19 3-pointers, 46 free throws made, 62 shots from the charity stripe, 75 rebounds, 30 assists, 19 steals and 11 blocked shots.
When the clock finally hit zero, it was regular-season champ and top-seeded UTEP which came out on top as the Miners defeated No. 9 seed Southern Miss, 92-79, in the 2012 Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship Quarterfinals on Thursday evening at the University of Memphis' Elma Roane Fieldhouse.
The combined point total was tied for the fourth-highest output in the history of the league championship tournament, equaling the mark set by Tulane and DePaul in an 88-83 Green Wave quarterfinal win on March 2, 2002, in Chicago, Ill., and was just nine points shy of the all-time record of 180 established by East Carolina (102) and Southern Miss on March 8, 2010, in Tulsa, Okla. In addition, UTEP's 92 points against the Lady Eagles is the fifth-highest single-season total in the 17-year history of the C-USA Championship.
With the win, UTEP advances to the C-USA Championship Semifinals where the Miners will take on the winner of tonight's UAB/Rice matchup on Thursday at the FedEx Forum. Tipoff for that game is slated for 12:30 p.m. and will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network. Southern Miss, meanwhile, concludes the 2011-12 season with a 13-18 record.
Jamierra Faulkner led Southern Miss with a game-high 27 points to go with a team-best five assists and three steals. Tanecka Carey was next for the Lady Eagles offensively with 17 points, followed by Sedreka Plummer with 16 and Niesha Pierce with 11. Carey led the Lady Eagles with nine rebounds while Pierce had two of the team's three blocks.
Center Gloria Brown led five UTEP players in double figures, coming off the bench to score 19 points while pulling down six rebounds and blocking three shots. Erika Warren was next for the Miners with 17 points, 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.
As a team, the Miners hit 52.8 percent of their shots for the game (28-of-53) and eight of the 13 players to take the court for the regular-season champs had at least eight points. UTEP out-rebounded Southern Miss, 42-33, and turned 12 offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points.
The Southern Miss defense forced 23 turnovers - including 11 via steal - and turned the Miners' miscues into 21 points. UTEP, however, took advantage of 24 Lady Eagles' personal fouls to connect on 27-of-36 free throws.
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 led 4:50 into the contest and held a four-point edge at 20-16 just under two minutes later. The Miners, however, got a 3-pointer by Melisa Allen to cut the deficit to one and went ahead for good on an Erika Warren layup with 12:18 to go before the break The UTEP 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. Southern Miss, meanwhile, showed no quit and whittled the deficit down to eight when Carey capped a 14-6 Lady Eagles run by draining a 3-pointer while getting fouled and converting the ensuing free throw to make it an 84-76 contest 2:32 later.
That was as close as Southern Miss would get the rest of the way as UTEP scored 10 straight points to all but put the game away. Faulkner hit a layup with 46 seconds to play and Carey hit a free throw 22 seconds later to account for the final score.
UTEP held the rebounding edge, 42-33, and outscored the Lady Eagles 30-24 in the paint including 13 second chance points.
|Follow USM Women's Basketball:||Follow @SouthernMissWBB|