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November 18, 2012EL PASO, Texas - Chrishauna Parker said it was a revenge game. Anete Steinberga said it was their biggest non-conference win since she's been with the program. But both agreed it was their most complete defensive game in recent memory.
The Miners avenged one of their two non-conference losses from last year as they defeated the Arizona State Sun Devils 60-54 Sundary afternoon at the Don Haskins Center. It was UTEP's fourth win against a power-conference team, their first since defeating Nebraska in 2008 and their second against a Pac-12 opponent.
"This was a big game for us because, as we know, we lost by two to them. With us having a whole new team, it just brings us together and lets us know we can do this," Parker said.
In a closely-fought affair, both teams exchanged baskets nearly the entire second half in a game that included 10 tied scores and 15 lead changes.
But with about five minutes to go, ASU took their final lead of the game at 45-43. Parker then tied the score up with 4:35 remaining for the last time, and began a 7-0 run.
Parker, who finished with a team-high 15 points, hit a pair of free throws and Kelli Willingham hit the Miners' lone 3-pointer of the game to give UTEP their largest lead at 50-45 with 3:06 to go. Head coach Keitha Adams said that was the biggest shot of the game for her team.
"Kelli can shoot the three and she hit a big one. And making that a two-possession (game), and then we were able to get back in our defense, instead of a one possession, was a big deal," Adams said.
ASU would break the tie off a pair of free throws by Promise Amukamara to end the run but UTEP had a response for every point the Sun Devils put up. The Miner lead was trimmed to three multiple times but UTEP never let them get any closer. Adams said that had to do with her team's defense and smart shot selection as they did all game.
"I think we actually settled in on our shot selection than we did in our previous game," Adams said. "When they went zone, we tried to get it inside and I think our post players were being really aggressive."
Another aspect that helped the Miners was the fact that ASU's 6-foot 5-inch forward, Joy Burke fouled out with 4:14 left, according to Steinberga, after leaving with seven points and 12 rebounds. Micaela Pickens and Jada Blackwell also fouled out.
"It kind of gave us a little extra push and with every other player that fouled out, it gave us the oomph," Steinberga said.
All of UTEP's points came from inside the paint and free throw line, except for seven of them. Adams said they were anticipating that with ASU being a bigger, taller and just a physical team.
The Miners' frontcourt was also affected as Kayla Thornton playing sparingly due to an ankle injury she sustained Friday against Houston Baptist. Thornton did start and did not enter the second half during the final run until Kristine Vitola went down.
With 1:05 left, Vitola stole the ball and began swinging her elbows to gain separation from her defender. She was called for a violation for doing that and then went down. She was taken to the locker room and did not return. According to Adams, she believes it may be a knee injury but won't have any official word until possibly tomorrow.
Defense was a big part of the win as both teams were held to low-shooting percentages. ASU went 19-of-56 from the field and UTEP was 17-of-49 for 34.7 percent. The Miners made just one shot from beyond the perimeter the entire game, which was Willingham's to give them the ultimate five-point lead. ASU was 3-of-15 from long distance, and hit just one in the second half.
"I think hustle and playing as a team together gave us a lot and we just went in there and knew it wouldn't be easy so we had to hustle on both ends, especially defense," Steinberga.
Neither team shot particularly well in the first half, as UTEP finished 8-of-22 for 31.6 percent and ASU hit just a third of their shots at 10-of-30.
UTEP did not make a single 3-pointer in the first half, after only attempting one. The Sun Devils made 2-of-8 from the perimeter, including one they made from half court to end the half and give ASU the 28-27 lead.
William Vega can be reached at email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter at @WillVega21. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.