Senior Kristine Vitola poured in 22 points while junior Chrishauna Parker posted her third straight double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds), and UTEP bested Colorado, 68-60, in the WNIT Sweet 16 in front of a school-record and raucous 8,234 fans at the Don Haskins Center Friday evening.
The Miners (27-7) move on to the WNIT Elite 8 and will play host to another Pacific-12 foe, Washington, at 7 p.m. MDT Monday. Tickets are $6 for general admission seating and went on sale at the UTEP ticket center after the contest, with the line spanning more than 100 yards. The ticket center will also be open on Saturday from 8am to 4pm and once again at 8 a.m. on Monday.
It was a two-point tilt (54-52) in favor of UTEP with 4:11 to play, giving the chance for the boisterous crowd to play a factor. The Orange and Blue faithful delivered, with the Buffaloes (19-14) committing three turnovers down the stretch. The giveaways helped fuel an 8-0 run in the final two minutes, as the Miners closed out the contest in style.
UTEP pounded the Buffaloes on the boards, 43-26, aided by 19 offensive rebounds. The home side also drilled 26-of-30 from the charity stripe to compensate for a rare off shooting night (19-of-55, 34.5 percent) from the floor.
Kayla Thornton added 11 points and four rebounds while Kelli Willingham and Sparkle Taylor netted seven each. Parker had six of the 19 offensive boards on the night while Vitola secured a trio at that end as well.
Colorado drilled 47.2 percent (25-of-53) from the floor but was doomed by turnovers (21) and the inability to keep the Orange and Blue off the glass. Jamee Swan (10 points seven rebounds) and Ashley Wilson (10 points) led the visitors, who put up a good fight in front of the feisty fans.
“A great win, a great crowd, I’m so proud of El Paso, I’m so proud of our players,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “To have that atmosphere was what I’ve dreamed about and El Paso made it happen. I’m going to let the kids enjoy this moment.”
There were four ties and four lead changes but the Miners essentially had control throughout the contest against a team that returned four starters from its 2013 NCAA Tournament team. UTEP led by as many as 13 while CU never secured an advantage of greater than two.
The Miners thrived off the crowd, a fact that was not lost on the visitors.
“The crowd was amazing,” Colorado coach Linda Lappe “Our players had such a great experience playing in front of that crowd. We don’t play in front of full arenas very often.”