No. 18 UTEP Storms Into Semifinals With 80-71 Win Against Rice

March 7, 2008

Final Stats

Led by Conference USA Player of the Year Jareica Hughes' school postseason record 33 points-including 29 in the second half-, the No. 18 UTEP women's basketball surged into the semifinals of the league tournament by defeating Rice, 80-71, Friday evening on the campus of UCF.


The Miners, who earned their 22nd consecutive victory as result, (26-2) will take on a 19-win Southern Miss squad in a 3:30 MST tilt that will be carried live by CSTV. It marks the Orange and Blue's initial appearance in the semifinals of a conference tournament since 2004 and the fourth overall in school history.


"Wow, what a fantastic game," UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. "I have to talk about how good of a ball team Rice is. They played exceptionally well. I knew going into tonight's game that we were going to have a tough ball game on our hands. They have had a tough season because of injury and that is something out of a coach's control. They are a tremendous team. Since they have been healthy, they have been rolling and, we knew going into tonight's game that we had to be ready.




"I thought it was a great effort, and we are very, very happy about the win against a good team."


UTEP trailed 37-31 with 17:50 to play in the contest, but Hughes' play ignited a game-deciding 30-10 run over the next 10 minutes to afford the Miners' their largest lead of the tilt (61-47) with 7:18 left on the clock. The sophomore scored 17 points in the stretch, and assisted on four other baskets, meaning she was directly involved in 26 of the 30 points during the sequence. Most of her work was done with driving, twisting lay-ups in traffic. That effort played a large role in UTEP holding a 38-14 advantage in points in the paint.


Rice whittled the advantage down to six (65-59) with 3:41 left, but Izabela Piekarska converted a lay-up off a nifty pass from Natasha Lacy. Piekarska finished with 14 points and six boards, while Lacy contributed nine points and four rebounds in battling through foul problems.


Kasia Krezel also cracked double figures, doing so with a 12-point performance on nifty 5-of-7 shooting. Brittnay Jones provided a large lift for UTEP, with three points, three rebounds and solid defense in 19 minutes of action off the bench.


UTEP shot 50.8 percent from the floor, including a sizzling 64 percent after the break. The Miners' defense kept the Owls in check, limiting Rice to 35 percent. Moreover, the Orange and Blue controlled the glass to the tune of a 39-29 advantage, remaining unbeaten on the year when out-rebounding its opponent.


Hughes, whose 33 points set a career high, nailed all 11 free throw attempts to become the first player in program history to have a perfect performance at the charity stripe when trying 10 or more.


UTEP will now turn its attention to USM, a team that took the Miners to overtime earlier this year.


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