The chase for a WNIT championship continued on Friday for the UTEP Women's basketball team as they held off Colorado 68-60, advancing to the Elite Eight round of the WNIT.
Playing in front of a school record 8,234 fans, the Miners responded right out of the gates scoring the games first nine points, feeding off an excited, and loud group of fans.
Despite the Miners' fast start, Colorado was able to weather the early UTEP storm, going on a 8-2 run, cutting the deficit to three when Lauren Huggins splashed one home from deep, making it 15-12 UTEP with 13:12 left in the opening half.
Then Kelli Willingham and Stacie Telles drilled back-to-back triples to start a fiery 11-1 run for the Miners, retaking the lead at 26-13 after a Cameasha Turner free throw.
A jumper from Sparkle Taylor gave UTEP a 28-16 lead at the 7:45 mark, but the Miners would go cold in the next five minutes, leading to a 12-0 Buffaloes' run that tied up the game when Ashley Wilson banged home a triple with two and a half minutes left.
Things remained close in the opening stages of the second half after UTEP went into the break with a 31-28 lead.
Haley Smith gave Colorado its first lead of the game at the 15:44 mark with great ball movement leading her to an open jumper, while Kayla Thornton was keyed on by Colorado from the start, going scoreless until she gave UTEP back the lead in a huge way.
Trailing 40-39 after a stomaching punching dagger from deep by Huggins, Thornton answered with a huge, and much needed triple that was her first basket of the game, giving UTEP a 42-40 lead with 12:16 left.
A pair of Kristine Vitola free throws gave UTEP a 50-44 edge as the eight minute mark approached, but Colorado kept chipping away thanks to Smith who scored 4 points during the next two minutes or so, part of a 6-0 run to tie the game at 50 with 5:54 left.
UTEP traded stops, and buckets during the next three minute stretch, as Thornton put UTEP up 56-52 with a bucket, then Lexy Kresel brought Colorado back within two with under two minutes to go.
Up 58-64 with 1:50 left, UTEP got the huge stop it needed on defense, leading to a nice pass from Chrishuana Parker to Vitola for a deuce that gave UTEP a 60-54 lead with 1:07 left in the game.
The Miners would hit their final eight free throws in the last minute to put this one on ice, and also thanks to three huge Colorado turnovers down the stretch, UTEP punched their ticket to the next round.
Kristine Vitola was spectacular from the start, she scored 10 of UTEP's first 15 points, and finished with 22 points. Parker recorded her third straight double-double of the tournament with 10 points, and 12 hard fought rebounds.
UTEP finished 26 out of 30 from the free throw line, and also hustled for 16 second chance points.
Even though there was a stretch where Colorado evened the battle of the boards in the first half, UTEP dominated in the second half en-route to a 43-26 edge on the glass.
Jamee Swan lead Colorado with 15 points, Ashley Wilson added 10, UTEP held CU's leading scorer Arielle Roberson to just four points on the night. Colorado shot 47 percent from the field, but were forced into 21 turnovers.
Colorado packed the paint, and forced Kayla Thornton into a rough shooting night, she was 3/14 from the field but did score 11 points, Sparkle Taylor was also solid off the bench scoring 7 points to go along with 4 rebounds.
Next up for the Miners (27-7) in the Elite Eight is Washington out of the Pac-12, UTEP will host the Huskies Monday at 7:00 PM back in the Don Haskins Center.