Miners Suffer Gut-Wrenching 55-54 OT Setback To UC Irvine

Nov. 16, 2008

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The UTEP women's basketball team was dealt a heartbreaking 55-54 overtime loss by UC Irving at the Don Haskins Center Sunday afternoon. Freshman Dietra Caldwell, who forced OT with a clutch three pointer with 31 seconds left, almost lifted the Orange and Blue to victory in the final seconds but her shot at the buzzer rattled out.

The Anteaters had been clinging to a one-point lead after Keyonna Johnson drained the second of two free throws, which put UTEP in an undesirable position. The Miners were faced with the daunting task of having to go the entire length of the court in only 6.8 seconds. 

Caldwell received the inbounds pass and raced up the court, stopping to square her shoulders and fire from the left wing just before time expired. The ball hit both sides of the rim and hung on the iron for a tantalizing half second before falling off, allowing UCI (1-1) to escape with the win.

UTEP (0-2) won the battle of the boards (46-43) and committed only eight turnovers- compared to 15 by the Anteaters- but an uncharacteristic 13-of-27 showing at the free-throw line made things rather tough on the Miners. Factor in that UTEP was without the services of starters Jareica Hughes and Timika Williams for the final 22 minutes, (both left with undisclosed injures early in the second half), and it is incredible just how close the Orange and Blue were to winning the game.  

The Miners certainly could have packed things given those circumstances, but instead they clawed their way back each time it seemed as if UCI was ready to finally put away them away. The first half was a good indicator of the type of heart UTEP showed off during the game. The Miners somehow found a way take a 25-23 lead into the locker room despite facing deficits of at least five points seven different times alone in the opening 20 minutes.

That attitude remained present in the second stanza, this time with UTEP overcoming UCI staking claim to five separate advantages of at five points of more. Included among was a six point-lead for the visitors (46-40) with 5:19 left thanks to a jumper from Rebecca Maessen, who finished with a game-high 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting. 

Caldwell, who led UTEP with a 12-point, six-rebound and five-assist effort, started what would be a crucial sequence down the stretch in which the Miners out-scored UCI 10-4 by connecting on a long three pointer. Sophomore Brittnay Jones pulled UTEP within one by finishing a lay-up in traffic for two of her eight points on the day. She also posted eight rebounds in the game.

After Caldwell tied the contest with a free throw, the Anteaters' Kirian Ishizaka broke it courtesy of an old-fashioned three-point play. Following a stop at the defensive end of the court, the Miners found themselves down three heading into the waning seconds of the tilt. 

Briana Green (seven points, two boards and one steal) made her lone assist of the day a big one, using a nifty pass to set up Caldwell's heroic shot.  Junior-college All-American Marta Micula, who grabbed a squad best 11 boards in addition to scoring five points, then ensured there would be an extra session by swatting away a potential game-winning jumper from UCI's Mary Has with a mere two ticks left on the clock. 

UCI got out quick in the OT period, snagging a four-point lead within the first minute-and-a half. Once again, though the Miners had an answer. UTEP accounted for the next four points thanks to free throws from Jones and Caldwell and a lay-up by Sviatlana Trukshanina

The Miners had a chance to move ahead for good with 32 seconds left, but were whistled for a five-second inbounds violation. While it was only their aforementioned eighth turnover of the game, it came at the worst possible time. 

UCI was able to run down the clock before Johnson drove down the lane. She was fouled on a shot attempt with just under seven seconds left. After clanking the first try, she managed to sink what would turn out to be the game-winning point.

The Miners will return to action against I-10 rival NMSU at 7:05 p.m. at "The Don" on Thursday.






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