The magical WNIT ride continues on Monday for the UTEP's Women's basketball team as the Washington Huskies try to do something very few have done this season, beat the Miners in the Don.
Washington making its third straight WNIT appearance has beat Hawaii, Oregon, and San Diego with a margin no closer than seven in their journey to the WNIT Elite Eight.
Not only have the Huskies shown they can win big postseason games, they have some impressive wins against the top teams in their top notch league that sent five to the NCAA Tournament. Washington has knocked off three ranked teams this year, including wins against Stanford, and a season sweep of Colorado.
Guards Kelsey Plum and Jasmine Davis make up the nation's second-highest scoring back court duo at 40.3 points per game, Davis is a three team All-Conference first teamer, while Plum earned seven Pac-12 freshman of the week honors this season.
Forward Aminah Williams averages 10.5 rebounds a game, and has 21 games where she has hauled in 10 or more boards, dominating San Diego in their last round win with 17 boards.
The Huskies are 13-0 when they have the better shooting percentage, and are 14-1 when they hold their opponent to under 70 points.
Washington will try to attack from the perimeter with Plum, and Davis who have lead the Huskies to a 71.1 percent mark at the line, both have over 200 attempts from the charity stripe.
The duo also will pull from deep at a high rate, parlaying into one of the better consistent team percentages UTEP has seen all year from behind the arch.
As a team they average 23.6 attempts a game from deep, splashing home 34 percent. Davis has 81 makes, while Plum has 80, with over 200 attempts each they are shooting a combined 36 percent.
UTEP's pressure defense will surely be tested by the talented Washington guards, the Miners have forced all three WNIT opponents to over 16 turnovers, also assisting that margin is the postseason home atmosphere UTEP has used to its advantage.
During the postseason you need players to take it to the next level, and constant producers during the season have done just that for UTEP.
Chrishauna Parker is on a three game double-double streak, she has also been a defensive rock all year, while taking care of business at the free throw line that her physical play leads to chances there.
Senior Kristine Vitola sent UTEP into the WNIT Sweet 16 with a huge three pointer down the stretch against St.Mary's that broke her out of a 1/7 start in that game. Vitloa followed that up with 22 points in the win against Colorado, UTEP is at its best when the ball goes through her or All-World forward Kayla Thornton.
Colorado did a good job of keeping Thornton out of the paint last Friday, forcing her to be a jump shooter in the first half, but they did not have answer for Vitola, and eventually like all great players do, Thornton got hers down the stretch.
Many times this year Keitha Adams has made adjustments on defense to help spark the offense.
Point in case was against Colorado she put Thornton on top of a trapping 1-3-1 zone that lead to some steals, and layups for Kayla who didn't get her first field goal until the middle of the second half, though it was a huge transition three that gave UTEP a lead.
Other times during the year UTEP will also pull out a deadly half court trap that stymies teams in the early stages of the second half, usually leading to a momentum shifting run.
Forcing turnovers is a huge identity of what the Miners do, Washington does a decent job of taking care of the ball with the superb guard play of Davis and Plum.
UTEP is a bit deeper in the back court with players who can take over, and make big shots, but could use some more constant scoring production especially in this one.
Conference USA Sixth Player of the Year Jenzel Nash has been suspended for disciplinary reasons, sitting out the Colorado win. She is greatly needed on the defensive end because her offense is always there, her along with Cameasha Turner can match or over match the Washington duo athletically as both do a great job of forcing turnovers.
Washington is 7-6 on the road this season, the largest crowd they have played in front of was in College Station when they fell to the Aggies earlier in the non-conference portion.
The Miners will definitely have a larger crowd than the 4,169 Washington played in front of in their 74-68 loss, hopefully, and quite possibly 8,000 more larger than A&M.
Washington Huskies (20-13) at UTEP Miners (27-7)
Friday March 31st, 7:00 PM, Don Haskins Center, El Paso TX