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UTEP Women Rally To Knock Off UAB, Advance to Semis

Courtesy of UTEP Athletics; by Richie Weaver

Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

TULSA, Okla. - The cliché in sports is that it's not over until the fat lady sings. While the song never escaped the proverbial vocalist's lips, she definitely took a few deep breaths in anticipation before fifth-seeded UTEP rallied late for a 61-59 win over No. 4 seed UAB in the 2013 Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon at the Tulsa Convention Center.

Down by eight at 47-39 with 6:44 left to play, the Miners (22-9) went on an 8-0 run over the next 3:02 to tie the game. The two teams traded the next four points, Chrishauna Parker put UTEP on top momentarily with a pair of free throws, and the Blazers (18-12) answered with a 3-pointer by Karisma Chapman on the ensuing possession to stake them to a 52-51 lead. The next time down the floor, however, UTEP got a trey of its own from reserve Irene Gari and never trailed again.

With the victory, UTEP has now five consecutive C-USA Championship contests to improve to 22-9 on the year and advance to Thursday's semifinals where the Miners will face eighth-seeded UCF. Tipoff for that game is slated for 9 a.m. (MT) in the BOK Center. UAB, meanwhile, falls to 18-12 on the year and will wait to learn its postseason fate when the respective selection committees announce their tournament fields early next week.

Forward Kayla Thornton posted a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds while adding a pair of steals. Center Anete Steinberga - who became the eight Miner to surpass the 1,000-point plateau for her career during the game - was next with 14 points while guard Kellie Willingham chipped in with 12.

The Miners held a 49-35 rebounding advantage and turned 17 offensive boards into 18 second-chance points. UAB had 12 points off 10 UTEP turnovers and outscored the Miners off the bench, 19-5. The difference in the contest came down to second-half free throw shooting where UTEP was 13-of-18 (.722) while UAB was just 5-of-10 (.500). The Miners started 8-18 from the charity stripe before making nine straight and 10 of its last 11.

The game was back and forth from the beginning and the teams sat tied at 25-all with 1:59 to go before halftime. UAB's Khoria Newman broke the tie with a jump shot and that sparked a 6-0 the rest of the stanza to send the Blazers into the locker room on top 31-25.

UTEP scored the first eight points of the second half to take a 32-31 lead 3:03 into the stanza, but UAB outscored the Miners 16-7 over the next 10:36 to set up the comeback.

Chapman led UAB with a game-high 23 points and four steals, and Ashley Grimes was next for the Blazers offensively with 10 points. Khalilah Watson led the squad with three assists while Michaelea Kleist posted a team-high nine rebounds.