UTEP Comes Up Shy Against SEC's Arkansas, 59-56
Nov. 27, 2010
EL PASO, TEXAS- The UTEP women's basketball team gave Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas everything it wanted before ultimately falling, 59-56, in the championship contest of the fourth-annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic at the Don Haskins Center Saturday evening.
Defense was the dominant theme throughout the tilt, one which featured seven ties and 13 lead changes. The Miners (4-2) led by as many as seven (twice in the first half), and were up by two (53-51) after junior Dietra Caldwell drained a triple with 5:50 remaining in regulation.
Sarah Watkins pulled the Razorbacks (7-0) even with a jumper and then Lyndsay Harris drilled a three pointer to afford them a three-point edge (56-53) with 4:32 to play in the period.
UTEP, which never trailed by more than three points to the unbeaten UA squad, continued to fight. Behind a trio of Kristine Vitola free throws over the next couple of positions the Miners were able to tie the game at 56 with 1:36 to play. The Razorbacks regained the advantage, for good as it would turn out, with a make from C'eira Ricketts at the charity stripe. Ricketts knocked down two more free throws in the waning seconds, putting UA up, 59-56, with 11 seconds to play.
Junior Briana Green, who tallied 12 points and a team-high five assists, had a chance to tie the contest with a long three-pointer as time expired. The try came up short, though, allowing the Razorbacks to escape El Paso unscathed.
"I saw a lot of things tonight that I'm encouraged by," UTEP head coach Keitha Adams. "We took better care of the ball tonight, doing so against an incredibly good defensive team. There are definitely a lot more positives coming from tonight's game than negatives. It was a great experience for our young team."
Freshman Kayla Thornton led the Miners with 13 points while also grabbing seven boards. Vitola pitched in nine points and eight rebounds while freshman Kelli Willingham and Caldwell each tallied seven points.
UTEP did a good job against a very aggressive Arkansas press, committing only 16 turnovers. The Miners, though, weren't able to get into a rhythm in the half-court offense, which was reflected in their 33.9 percent (21-62) in shooting from the floor.
It wasn't much prettier for the Razorbacks offensively, with the Orange and Blue holding them to 11 points below their season average. UA filled up only 38.6 percent (22-57) of its shots, including 7-21 from beyond-the-arc. It was forced into 19 turnovers, which led to 13 points for the homestanding squad.
Harris and Keira Peak paced all players with 16 points while Watkins added 15. Ricketts pitched in eight points while Ashley Daniels managed four points. No other player scored for the Razorbacks.
Willingham garnered placement on the all-tournament team, as did UA's Harris and Watkins. Idaho State's Kaela Oakes and Chelsea Pickering rounded out the squad. Ricketts was tabbed as the Defensive MVP of the Tournament while Oakes was voted as the Tournament MVP.
UTEP will be back in action when it plays host to Cal State Northridge at 7:05 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3. It will be a throwback game, with the contest being held at historic Memorial Gym.