First-team All-Conference USA honoree Kayla Thornton posted a double-double (25 points, 12 rebounds) while C-USA Sixth Player of the Year Jenzel Nash provided 23 points off the bench, and third-seeded UTEP held off 14th-seed Louisiana Tech, 81-72, in the quarterfinals of the 2014 C-USA Women’s Basketball Championships at Memorial Gym Thursday evening. The Miners (24-6) advance to the semifinals and will face either second-seed Southern Miss (24-5) or seventh-seed Old Dominion (17-14) at 11:30 a.m. MDT. The contest will be televised nationally by CBS Sports Network.
The Lady Techsters (12-20) led 48-43 with 11:32 remaining in regulation before UTEP found another level. The Miners put together a 17-2 run in a span of less than four minutes, with Nash contributing 11 points during the sequence.
The margin swelled to as many as 14 (72-58, 3:41 to play) but Louisiana Tech refused to go away quietly. It whittled the deficit all the way down to six (78-72, 00:23) but it was too little too late. The 81 points are the fifth-most in UTEP postseason history.
The Miners move to 24-6 on the year, including a single-season school-record 17-1 at home. The 17 home victories also tie as most in a single campaign in C-USA history.
The Miners will be making third straight appearance in the C-USA semifinals. UTEP won the tournament in 2012 while being edged out in the semis last year. Overall it is the sixth showing in the semis in program history, with each of the previous times (1993, 1995 & 2004) coming when it was a member of the Western Athletic Conference.
Kristine Vitola joined Nash and Thornton in double figures with 12 points while also posting a career-best and a UTEP postseason record six blocked shots. The Miners nailed 47.5 percent (28-of-59) from the floor, which was aided by going 18-of-27 (66.7 percent) over the final 20 minutes of the game.
Thornton's 25 points tie as the third most by a UTEP player in a postseason game while elevating her career total to 1,552. Former Miner great Jareica Hughes holds the career standard for scoring at 1,555 (2007-10).
Louisiana Tech was led by a 25-point outburst from Kelia Shelton, helped by going 11-of-13 from the charity stripe. Whitney Frazier got involved with a 17-point, 13-rebound effort while JaQuan Jackson pitched in 15 points.
Overall Louisiana Tech connected on 36.7 percent from the floor, including a solid 45.5 percent (15-of-33) in a 49-point second half. It was done in, though, by an inability to get enough stops and making 19 turnovers that led to 18 UTEP points.