UTEP Women Make First NCAA Tournament Appearance
March 19, 2008
EL PASO, Texas (AP) - Finally, a banner. Actually, two.
The UTEP women's basketball team had waited 34 years to send one of its own to the rafters of the Don Haskins Center, joining all those of the Miners' celebrated men's program.
"We talked about hanging a banner in the Haskins Center," coach Keitha Adams said. "Ladies, we're going to have two."
The Miners won the regular-season Conference USA championship and went on a 23-game winning streak that ended in the conference title game against SMU. They were rewarded with the No. 7 seed in the Spokane regional, where they'll face No. 10 Western Kentucky in Stanford, Calif., on Saturday.
"The word is we're going dancing," Adams shouted after the Miners' place in the tournament was announced Monday. "Players, I want to see you dance!"
To the delight of a chanting crowd of fans at the Haskins Center, Adams led the team in a practice dance near midcourt Monday after their bid was announced.
The 23rd-ranked Miners (27-3, 16-0 Conference USA) had to sweat it out, though. Adams looked nervous after the first three regionals were announced without her Miners, before jumping to her feet to hug her players and other supporters, including her mom, when the Miners' bid was official.
"Young ladies, you've made history today," a grinning Adams said.
About 500 fans filled the stands for a selection day party - including a live broadcast by ESPN - that could have been for any perennial favorite.
Natasha Lacy, a senior guard, said watching as the brackets were filled in was nerve-racking.
"We saw the brackets and we were the last one, we're just glad we got in," Lacy said. "We're in a great position. We're where we want to be," Lacy said.