March 10, 2012
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -
Miners' forward Gloria Brown scored 18 of her game-high 20 points in the second half as regular-season league champions UTEP rallied past No. 3 seed Tulane, 69-65, in the 2012 Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship title game on Saturday evening in the FedExForum in Memphis.
With the win, UTEP improves to 29-3 on the year and earns the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Miners' four-point victory is their first C-USA Championship title-game win and the trip to "The Big Dance" is the second in school history. Tulane, meanwhile, falls to 22-10 on the year and will have to wait until Monday to learn their postseason fate.
Brown, who added 11 rebounds, three steals, a pair of blocks and an assist to her point total, was named C-USA Championship MVP and was joined on the all-tournament squad by teammate Kayla Thornton, Danielle Blagg and Olivia Grayson of Tulane, and Jamierra Faulkner of Southern Miss.
UTEP trailed by as many as 12 with 15:13 to play, but used a 27-4 run over the next 7:27 to go ahead 51-50. Tulane scored the next seven points to go back on top 58-51 with 5:47 to go, but the Miners out-scored the Green Wave 18-7 the rest of the way to come away with the win.
As a team, UTEP hit 42.6 percent of its shots from the field, overcoming a .355 clip (11-of-31) in the first half to connect on a12-of-23 attempts (.522) after the break. The Miners defense held Tulane to just 11 baskets in the second half and a 39.7 shooting mark for the game (23-of-58). UTEP held a slight 36-34 edge in rebounding but turned 11 offensive boards into 13 second-chance points.
Thornton finished second to Brown in the UTEP scoring column with 14 points while Erika Warren finished with 12. Three of Thornton's five field goals were from beyond the 3-point arc and she fell just one rebound shy of a double-double with nine. Warren and Kim Smith tied for team-high assist honors with four apiece.
Tulane scored the first four points of the game before UTEP rallied to tie the game at 5-all. The two teams traded the next 16 points and Grayson sparked an 8-0 Tulane run with a pair of free throws. The Miners sliced the deficit to one at 23-22 with 4:48 to go before the break, but Tulane outscored UTEP 11-6 the rest of the way to go into the locker room on top 34-28.
After falling behind by a dozen just under five minutes into the second half, Kelli Willingham sparked the comeback with a 3-pointer. Following a Grayson layup to extend Tulane's lead to 11 on the ensuing possession, Brown tallied eight of UTEP's next 11 points and Chrishauna Parker put the Miners on top 51-50 with a trey at the 7:46 mark.
Tulane answered with consecutive baskets by Janique Kautsky, Jamie Kaplan and Adesuwa Ebomwonyi, and Brett Benzio knocked down a pair of free throws to stretch the Green Wave edge to seven at 58-51.From there, Brown scored five straight points, Warren nailed a pair of free throws and Kristine Vitola laid one off the glass to knot things up at 60-all.
UTEP went ahead for good when Brown hit a pair of free throws with 2:48 to go and stake the Miners to a 62-60 lead. Tulane cut the lead to one the next time down the floor when Blagg hit one-of-two free throw opportunities, and UTEP put the game away by converting seven free throws over the final 2:10 to account for the final score.
Grayson led the Green Wave with 14 points while Blagg, Tyria Snow and Adesuwa Ebomwonyi tallied 11 each. Brett Benzio posted a game-best 12 rebounds and shared team-high assist honors with Grayson and Jamie Kaplan at three apiece. Snow led the Tulane defense with three steals.
Jamierra Faulkner, Southern Miss
Danielle Blagg, Tulane
Kayla Thornton, UTEP
Olivia Grayson, Tulane
Gloria Brown, UTEP - MVP
2012 C-USA Women's Basketball Championship Schedule
Elma Roane Fieldhouse & FedExForum
FIRST ROUNDS - Wednesday, March 7
(11) East Carolina 59, (6) Tulsa 49
(10) SMU 53, (7) Marshall 52
(9) Southern Miss 71, (8) UCF 49
(5) Rice 64, (12) Houston 50
QUARTERFINALS - Thursday, March 8
(3) Tulane 67, (11) East Carolina 51
(2) Memphis 77, (10) SMU 67
(1) UTEP 92, (9) Southern Miss 79
(4) UAB 72, (5) Rice 46
SEMIFINALS - Friday, March 9
(3) Tulane 63, (2) Memphis 44 (CBSSN)
(1) UTEP 60, (4) UAB 49 (CBSSN)
CHAMPIONSHIP - Saturday, March 10
(1) UTEP 69, (3) Tulane 65 (CBS SN)