UTEP takes down Colorado 68-60 to advance to WNIT quarterfinals

Kelli+Willingham+attempts+a+layup+up+over+Buffs+defender+Arielle+Roberson.

Michaela Roman

Kelli Willingham attempts a layup up over Buffs defender Arielle Roberson.

Luis Barrio, Staff Reporter

Led by the winningest class in program’s history, the UTEP Miners came out firing in all cylinders as they secured their spot in the WNIT quarterfinals.

The magnitude of the spirit, intensity and home crowd all contributed UTEP’s 68-60 over the Colorado Buffalo.

UTEP players and coaches were lifted by the glee of 8,234 fans. In program history, there has not been a larger crowd. This is a crowd that has not reached its pinnacle. The Miners will get at least one more home game on Monday as they will host another Pac-12 opponent, the Washington Huskies.

“I’m really proud of El Paso and really proud of our team. Right now I’m floating on clouds,” said head coach Keitha Adams. “To have that kind of atmosphere, that’s what I’ve dreamed about and El Paso was able to make it happen.”

UTEP came out sprinting in this game. The Miners had several scoring runs in the first half but the Buffalo shot well from the field including from three-point range to go with that, the Buffalo bench outscored the UTEP bench 16-8.

The Miners opened the game with a 9-0 run, but the Buffaloes managed to close the half with a 13-2 run of their own and UTEP took a slim 31-28 lead into the half.

Colorado guarded senior forward Kayla Thornton well in the first half and held her scoreless, but with all the attention toward her, senior center Kristine Vitola took the opportunity with great pleasure. With the large crowd, Vitola said her eyes “lit up.”

“They focused on Kayla, so they (Colorado) have to realize that UTEP is all about team ball,” Vitola said. “When they take somebody else away then somebody else is going to step up. Today was my day.”

The Buffalo had a better field goal percentage than UTEP in the second half. However, UTEP converted 20 of 22 free throws in the second half, a number the Buffaloes did not come close to.

Happy with her double-double performance, Parker used the word “beast” to describe the level she has been playing on this postseason WNIT run.

“I got to go out there and do what I got to do for my team. Nobody is going stop me. I’m a beast out there,” Parker said.

The UTEP Miners will face the Washington Huskies on Monday at 7 p.m. in the WNIT quarterfinals, the winner of this game will play the winners of the South Dakota State-Indiana game.

UTEP drew more than double the fans than any other team in the field and by having the second best record only behind Bowling Green (30-4) the Miners might get to host all their remaining games at the Don Haskins Center.

Luis Barrio may be reached @Luis_Barrio17 and [email protected]