No. 18 UTEP Comes Up Short Against SMU In C-USA Title Game
March 9, 2008
ORLANDO, Fla. - The No. 18 UTEP women's basketball team was upended by second-seeded SMU, 73-57, in the 2008 Conference USA Championship game Sunday afternoon.
The setback is the first for the Miners (27-3) in more than three months, and halts the nation's longest unbeaten streak at 23 games. UTEP, which became the first team in league history to run the table at 16-0, had been taking aim at its initial conference tournament crown in program history.
It was not to be, though, as in a game with monumental runs, SMU (24-8) answered an 18-0 spurt by UTEP with a 17-0 surge of its own to turn a 38-30 Orange and Blue lead with 12:41 to play into a 47-38 advantage at the 6:53 mark. The Miners tried to rally, cutting the deficit to as few as five (53-48) with 3:30 on the clock, but they could get no closer.
Now 27-3 on the year, with the lone losses to Big 12 champion Kansas State, 24-8 SMU- two of those losses at the hands of UTEP- and 20-10 Nebraska, UTEP will learn its fate for the NCAA tournament on Monday, March 17 at 5 p.m. MST when selections to this year's field are announced live on ESPN.
A team which has been very balanced throughout the entire year- evidenced by four players in double figures and a fifth on the cusp on average- all but two of UTEP's points on the day came courtesy of Izabela Piekarska, Jareica Hughes and Natasha Lacy. The senior post led the way with her sixth double-double (21 points, 10 boards), while Hughes (19 points, five assists and four steals) and Lacy (15 points, five helpers and five steals) also cracked double figures.
Timika Williams also contributed, grabbing a game-high 12 boards, including four of the offensive variety.
The Mustangs had four in double digits, with Brittany Gilliam's 20-point, seven-board effort leading the way.
SMU raced out to an 8-0 edge, as the Miners misfired early on. UTEP answered in the form of a 5-0 spurt to make it 8-5 and 10-7, but the Mustangs countered with an 11-3 run to grab its largest lead of the opening half, 21-10, with blank to play in the period.
The Miners clawed backed by out-pacing SMU 10-2 the next couple of minutes. The result was the Orange and Blue slicing the deficit to a mere three points, 23-20, with 1:30 remaining in the period. Cobb drilled a runner in the lane to halt the spurt, and afford the Mustangs a 25-20 edge entering the locker room.
SMU christened the second stanza much like the first, with five straight points push their edge to 10 (30-20). The Miners responded much like the champions that they are (regular-season C-USA title), utilizing an 18-0 stretch over the next 6:28.
SMU countered with the aforementioned 17-0 stretch of its over, which spanned almost six minutes. UTEP tried to extend the game in the final two minutes, fouling to put the Mustangs on the free-throw line. SMU stepped up, though, connecting as they had throughout the entire game, and the comeback try was denied.