The Prospector

UTEP women shoot past USM, advance to C-USA quarters

Photo courtesy of Conference USA

Photo courtesy of Conference USA

Jeremy Carranco, Sports Editor

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Tamara Seda knows she is in the final days of her collegiate career and is laying it all on the line.

The senior captured her 14th double-double (19 points, 14 rebounds) on the season to guide the ninth-seeded UTEP women’s basketball team past eighth-seeded Southern Miss, 72-67 in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament in Frisco on Wednesday.

The Miners (17-13) became the first No. 9 seed to win at the Conference USA Tournament since 2012.

“Great competitive game we just played,” Seda said. “Huge props to Southern Miss for making things hard. It wouldn’t be a conference tournament if it wasn’t that competitive.”

UTEP shot the ball well all game long. As a team, the Miners finished 50 percent from the field (22-44) and behind the arc (7-14) while nailing 84 percent of their free throws (21-24).

“Survive and advance mode, that’s where we are,” said UTEP head coach Kevin Baker. “I’m proud and impressed with our team today, these are good kids playing some really good basketball. There’s no way in the world I would bet against the Miners right now.”

Sophomore Faith Cook, who hasn’t shot much this year, was a factor in her team’s win today with four 3-pointers in six attempts. Overall, Cook tallied 14 points, her most in a game since the win against East Carolina (16) back in December.

Jordan Alexander (10 points), Najala Howell (13 points) and Zuzanna Puc (10 points) also joined Seda and Cook in double figures, bringing a well-balanced scoring attack.

The game featured five ties and 11 lead changes. UTEP jumped out an 11 point twice in the third quarter at 38-27 and 41-30 but a 22-3 USM run following that turned the contest into an eight-point deficit (52-44) with 2:13 left in the frame for the Miners.

UTEP was able to strike back with a 20-6 surge wrapped around the quarter break to regain the lead (64-58) for good, icing the contest at the free-throw line late.

“I always at peace with the way that they were playing,” Baker said. “I did call a timeout to stop the bleeding a little bit but I never felt out of sorts, our team never felt unconfident at any time.”

Although giving up 23 points off 17 turnovers to the Golden Eagles, the Miners were able to overcome that by getting to the line to slow the game down.

“We said before the game started, if they cant press us, they won’t beat us,” Baker said. “We did our best to take it right at them and thank goodness we survived.”

With the win, the Miners now own a three-game winning streak and advance to face top-seeded UAB at 10 a.m. MST/11 a.m. CST Thursday.

UTEP allowed UAB to outscore them 30-12 in the fourth quarter, including a school record for 3-pointers made (17) in the Blazers’ 84-64 win on Feb. 2 at the Don Haskins Center.

Miner fans can listen to the quarterfinal game in El Paso on 600 ESPN El Paso or watch it through live stream on Facebook (Live: Stadium College Basketball).

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UTEP women shoot past USM, advance to C-USA quarters