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January 20, 2013EL PASO, Texas - In a tightly contested game of runs and offensive struggles between two undefeated Conference USA teams, it was no surprise UTEP and UAB would be decided by one last rally and one final shot.
UTEP blew a 12-point second half lead and UAB rallied late for a 61-57 win Saturday afternoon in the Don Haskins Center to halt the Miners' efforts at a school-best start of 15-1. The loss also snapped UTEP's nine-game winning streak.
Kayla Thornton had the opportunity to give the Miners the lead on the final possession but her shot from the corner missed with eight seconds left and UTEP down two.
"It was a last-minute shot, I tried to get myself open but it didn't fall," Thornton said.
Head coach Keitha Adams called a timeout prior to the play, drawing up a set that she said her team ran earlier in the game and worked, as well. She said she was happy Thornton's shot was open but would have loved it to fall.
"I had the ball in Kayla's hands, I had Anete on the block and basically, I was going to let them play a two-man game," Adams said. "You put the ball in the players hands you trust down the stretch."
But the execution was what may have been UTEP's ultimate demise, as they shot 28.4 percent from the field, after shooting 20 percent in the first half.
Even more difficult to fathom for Adams was the fact that her team blew a 12-point lead with 11:11 remaining.
"I just think we didn't make some key plays on offense and they made some big baskets and made some threes," Adams said.
The Miners began the second half shooting 8-of-15 and 5-of-5 from three after falling behind 30-24 at the break. They used a 27-5 run that eclipsed both halves to take a 47-35 lead.
"When we came out in the second half, we came out big, we took the lead, just some things down the stretch hurt us," Kelli Willingham said.
Thornton, who finished with a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds, had 10 of the first 20 points for the team in the second half.
UAB then went on an 11-0 run to cut the lead to 49-48 but UTEP responded with four-straight points. The Blazers scored the next five to tie the game up for the first time since it was 30-30 with 18:54 left in the game.
UAB then regained the lead for the first time since that early portion of the second half off a jumper by Kayla Anderson. Both teams exchanged baskets until Anderson hit her second and last shot of the game to give the Blazers the 59-57 lead.
Following Thornton's miss, Ashley Grimes, who was held scoreless in the first half but finished with 12 points, hit a pair of free throws to put the game away.
UAB shot 39 percent from the field, including 8-of-20 from the perimeter. They were led by Karisma Chapman's 15 points and six rebounds.
Anete Steinberga also had a double-double for UTEP, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Chrishauna Parker had 12 points and nine boards while Willingham finished with eight points and five rebounds.
Rebounding was a huge plus for UTEP as they outrebounded UAB 57-33, including 24-5 on the offensive glass. That led to a 23-3 second-chance advantage.
The first half was simply a game of runs.
After an early 4-3 UTEP lead, the Blazers had runs of 10-0, 7-0 and 10-0 while UTEP had runs of 9-0, 7-0 and their 4-0 run that overlapped into the second half.
UAB shot 36.4 percent in the first half, including 5-of-13 from three. UTEP hit 7-of-35 in the first and just 1-of-8 from the arc. The Miners went 9-of-11 from the line, outrebounded the Blazers 33-19 but had seven turnovers compared to UAB's three.
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.