UTEP Battles But Comes Up Shy To No. 11/12 Penn State, 85-77
March 18, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. - - Gloria Brown (18 points, 10 boards) & Kayla Thornton (15 points, 12 rebounds) both posted double-doubles and 13th-seeded UTEP battled and put quite a scare into fourth-seed and No. 11/12 (AP/USA Today Coaches Poll) Penn State before ultimately succumbing, 85-77, in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Sunday evening.
The setback brings the incredible 2011-12 season to a close for the Miners (29-4), who set both the school (men's & women) and Conference USA record for victories while winning both the league regular season and tournament championship.
"I am extremely proud of my team," UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. "We have had a great year and a great season. I thought we competed really hard. We were just not able to get over that hump once we got down. It was like we were climbing up the mountain and we were getting close but didn't quite get there"
The Miners led the regular-season Big Ten champions for most for the first half, including being up by seven (34-27) with 4:26 to play in the period. The Lady Lions (25-6) struck back, though, and managed to pull even at 39 heading into the locker room.
The teams traded buckets in the opening stages of the second stanza before Penn State used a 7-2 sequence to grab a 48-43 edge with 15:58 to play. Brown halted it with a jumper from the wing only to have the Lady Lions peel off 11 straight over the next two minutes.
Rather than let them run away with the game, the Orange and Blue regrouped. UTEP ripped off a 13-4 run to whittle the deficit down to five (63-58) with 7:15 to play. PSU responded with a 5-0 push to regain control of the contest, but the Miners would not go down quietly.
They got within seven twice in the final five minutes, but couldn't get all the way back with Penn State taking care of business at the charity stripe. The Lady Lions nailed 25-of-31 at the free-throw line (80.6%), including making 25 of their first 29 tosses.
UTEP won the rebounding battle (45-36) and enjoyed a whopping 47-10 advantage in scoring by the reserves. It shot 41.8 percent (28-of-67), including a stout 51.6 percent (16-of-31) in the first half. The Miners drilled 17-of-21 (81.0%) at the charity stripe, and also connected on 4-of-10 (40.0 percent) from beyond the arc.
Defensively the Miners made PSU work for things, holding it to just four fast-break points and an overall readout of 41.5 percent (27-of-65) from the floor.
Ultimately the game boiled to turnovers, specifically Penn State's ability to turn 17 UTEP miscues into 22 points. The Miners forced 13 giveaways, but they could only get 11 points out of them.
Freshman Jenzel Nash buoyed Brown and Thornton with 13 points while sophomore Kelli Willingham added 11. PSU also had four players reach double figures in scoring, with Maggie Lucas (23) and Alex Bentley (21) leading the way.