Record-setting team falls short, will play NIT


Michaela Roman

Senior Kayla Thornton becomes the all-time leading scorer in UTEP’s history during the Conference USA Tournament.

Luis Barrio, Staff Reporter

I think we’re definitely tournament worthy and I told these girls we’ll get another shot.”

— Head coach Keitha Adams

Although UTEP was ousted from the Conference USA tournament by Southern Mississippi in an 84-70 game on March 14, seniors Kayla Thornton, Kristine Vitola and Kelli Willingham will still get a shot at postseason play, most likely a high seed in the Women’s NIT.

Taking a rewind back into the regular season, the Miners played extremely well and individuals on the team acquired valiant season accolades. The senior standout Thornton finished with First-Team All-Conference as well as All-Defensive Team. She became UTEP women’s all-time leading points scorer in UTEP’s semifinal loss. She still has an opportunity to stretch her point margin.

“I’m very proud of our seniors. This is a great class, the winningest class at UTEP. I’m very proud of our team,” said head coach Keitha Adams. “We’re disappointed that we lost, but I’m very proud of our team.

As of March 14, Thornton finished averaging just under 20 points per game, while averaging 10.5 rebounds a game. She finished top five in the conference for almost every major offensive and defensive statistic.

Redshirt sophomore guard Jenzel Nash took home the 2014 Conference USA Women’s Basketball Sixth Player of the Year Award. She averaged 11.8 points per game this season.  She gave the team instant offense off the bench with both scoring and assisting.

Vitola was a top 10 player in the conference in terms of field goal percentage and second in the conference with 78 blocks averaging 2.5 per contest.

From junior guard Stacie Telles to junior forward Chrishauna Parker, UTEP had a top 10 representative in every major category.

The Miners were 16-1 at home this season and began the season with a nine-game winning streak and finished with a 12-4 conference record.

The Miners overcame a 23-point deficit earlier in the year against Southern Miss, which was the largest comeback in program history.

“The good news is our team will get a chance to play again,” Adams said. “I think we’re definitely tournament worthy and I told these girls we’ll get another shot.”

The Miners will find out who they’ll play on March 18. With their record, UTEP could potentially host the first game of the NIT.

Luis Barrio may be reached at [email protected]