UTEP Falls to Oregon in the Elite 8 of the WNIT, 71-67
UTEP's tremendous postseason run in the WNIT came to an end in the Elite 8 on Monday night in front of 9,055 fans as Oregon defeated the Miners 71-67. Oregon handed the Miners their first loss at home this season, and in doing so advanced to the WNIT final four to face South Dakota.
The game was a tale of two halves as the Miners controlled the first quarter by outscoring the Ducks 20-9. UTEP's lead ballooned to 18 points at 27-9 with 7:51 remaining in the second quarter before Oregon stepped up their intensity to outscore the Miners 15-10 in the period. The Miners led 30-24 at halftime. The game was extremely close in the second half in a back and forth battle. Oregon took their first lead in the fourth quarter as they held a 58-53 edge with 6:56 left in the contest.
The Miners then scored the next 7 consecutive points to regain the lead at 60-58 with 3:19 left in the game before Oregon came back to tally the next 10 points, which proved to be too much for UTEP to handle as the Ducks pulled away in the final few minutes for the victory.
The Miners shot 39.7 percent from the field in the contest on 27 of 68 shooting, and forced Oregon into committing 20 turnovers. UTEP had 12 steals compared to Oregon's 7 in the game, and their bench outscored the Ducks' reserves 11-3. The Miners were narrowly outrebounded by Oregon 37-36, but what hurt UTEP the most was their inability to be effective from the free throw line as they made 4 of 12 from the charity stripe for a rate of just 33.3 percent.
Cameasha Turner led all scorers with 19 points, while both Starr Breedlove and Jenzel Nash tallied 17 points. Lulu McKinney contributed with 6 points, and Chrishauna Parker pulled in 9 rebounds.
Overall it was a season full of extraordinary memories and accomplishments for the UTEP women's basketball team as they won 29 games, won the C-USA regular season championship, finished 19-1 at home, and advanced to the Elite 8 of the WNIT. Keitha Adams became the first coach in C-USA history to win coach of the year honors on three separate occasions. Starr Breedlove won the Conference USA newcomer of the year, and Sparkle Taylor won the sixth player of the year. Let's face it, there are very few teams still playing basketball this late in the season, and the Miners were one of those teams. Not too shabby for a squad who was picked to finish fifth in C-USA.
Fans will always remember this team for their heart, perseverance, and ability to play like champions in pressure filled situations. Once an event is over, it is just simply a memory, and it goes without saying that this team created memories for a lifetime for El Pasoans. The 2015-2016 UTEP women's basketball team made El Paso proud as they continued to carry on the city's rich basketball tradition, and did so in the most humble way that one could imagine.