Senior Anete Steinberga scored 14 of her game-high 20 points in the second half as fifth-seeded UTEP rolled past No. 12 seed Marshall, 70-59, in day one of the 2013 Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship at the Tulsa Convention Center Wednesday afternoon.
The Thundering Herd (9-21) managed the game's opening points on a bucket by forward Suporia Dickens, but that would be their lone lead of the day with the Miners (21-9) tallying the next eight points. UTEP, which was up by six (39-33) at the half, used a 15-2 run over the first 6:42 of the second stanza to put things out of reach.
With the victory, the Miners move to 21-9 on the year and advance to take on No. 4 seed UAB at 12:30 p.m. MT in the quarterfinals Thursday. Marshall concludes its 2012-13 season at 9-21.
"In the first half we didn't guard the three-point shot very well, and we gave up some costly offensive rebounds," UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. "I challenged them at halftime to be much better defensively because we were playing a good offensive game, but we needed to put together a better defensive effort."
Steinberga, who extended her school mark of consecutive double-figure scoring outings to 21, was one of four Miners to finish with 10-plus points as guard Kelli Willingham had 16, forward Kayla Thornton scored 13 and wing Irene Gari added 11. Thornton completed a double-double with a team-best 10 rebounds and shared UTEP-high steal honors with guard Cameasha Tuner at two each. Gari led the team with four assists.
It marks the 21st career double-double for Thornton, who is one shy of matching Amy Pack's career record (22, 1999-01).
The Thundering Herd were held to 34.5 percent (20-of-58) from the floor. Chukwuka Ezeigbo (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Suporia Dickens (15 points, six rebounds) keyed the efforts for the #12 seed.
UTEP held a 46-32 rebounding advantage over Marshall, turned 18 offensive boards into 17 second-chance points and out-scored the Thundering Herd in the paint, 24-18.
The Miners reserved contributed 17 points, their highest total since pouring in 24 against UTPA (12/30/12).
Marshall hung tough early in the ballgame and bounced back from a 25-12 deficit with 11:04 to play in the first half with a 17-8 run over the next 7:24 to make it a four-point affair at 33-29. Thornton halted the surge with one of her three triples during the game, and the advantage was six at the break.
The aforementioned 15-2 run over the first 6:42 of the second half quieted any talks of a Thundering Herd comeback. Twice UTEP led by as many as 19, and it enjoyed a double-digit cushion for the final 16:43 of the contest.