Junior Chrishauna Parker posted her second straight double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) while senior Kayla Thornton added 17 points, and UTEP dispatched Saint Mary’s, 76-64, in front of 4,703 fans at the Don Haskins Center Monday evening.
The Miners (26-7) punch their ticket to the WNIT Sweet 16, and will play host to Pacific 12 member Colorado (19-14) at 7 p.m. MDT Friday. Tickets will go on sale at 8 a.m. Wednesday, with prices remaining $6 for general admission and $4 for UTEP students. Please call (915) 747-5234 for complete ticket information.
It was a back-and-forth defensive battle, featuring three ties and six lead changes. UTEP led the Gaels (23-8) 35-25 late in the first half but the visitors fought back in a big way. They wrapped a 21-9 surge around halftime and were up 46-44 with 12:44 to play in the contest.
UTEP didn’t flinch, though, striking back with a 13-1 run over the next six minutes to take control of the contest. The Gaels refused to go away quietly, whittling the deficit down to four (59-55) with 3:37 left but Kristine Vitola essentially dashed any comeback hopes with a clutch triple with 3:02 left. SMC didn’t get closer than five from that point on.
The Orange and Blue’s balanced attack wore down the Gaels, with Jenzel Nash providing 12 off the bench. Vitola finished with nine, as did Kelli Willingham, while Cameasha Turner added eight and Stacie Telles pitched in seven.
With both teams struggling to hit shots (UTEP 22-of-61, 36.1%, Saint Mary’s 22-of-56, 39.3%), the Miners found separation in other areas. They outscored SMC, 19-5, in second-chance points, aided by a 42-34 advantage on the glass, while also holding a 17-12 cushion in points off turnovers. The Orange and Blue’s bench outscored the Gaels’ back-ups, 21-8, thanks primarily to the efforts of Nash and Telles.
One other major difference was in free throws. SMC, which entered the contest fourth nationally at 79.0% from the line, was 16-of-23 (69.6%) at the free-throw line. The Miners drained 80.6 percent (25-of-31), including 12-of-14 over the final two minutes of the contest.
Jackie Nared (19 points) and Danielle Mauldin (15 points) led the attack for Saint Mary’s, which finished 13 points shy of its seasonal average. Shannon Mauldin pitched in nine points before fouling out while Katie Gaza managed seven points and a game-high five assists.