Senior Anete Steinberga (22 points/17 rebounds) and junior Kayla Thornton (17 points, 15 rebounds) both registered double-doubles, and UTEP used a huge second half to take down Tulane, 71-52, on “Senior Night” at the Don Haskins Center Friday evening.
The Miners (20-9, 8-8 C-USA) outscored the Green Wave (22-7, 11-5 C-USA) 44-21 over the final 20 minutes, aided by a game-changing 23-2 run to start the second half. They connected on 50.0 (15-of-30) percent from the floor in the period. Tulane hit just 7-of-36 (19.4 percent) in its nightmare of a stanza.
The effort affords UTEP its second straight and fourth overall 20-win season, in addition to locking up the No. 5 seed at the upcoming 2013 Conference USA Women’s Basketball Championships. The Miners will open play at the league’s pinnacle event by trying to avenge a Valentine’s Day road setback when they face No. 12 seed Marshall on March 13.
Tulane, which was dealt its first double-digit loss of the year, had its four-game winning streak snapped. Additionally, its six losses of 2012-13 entering this contest were by a combined 19 points.
UTEP won the battle of the boards (51-49), limited the visitors to 26.8 percent (19-of-71) shooting and enjoyed a commanding 19-2 advantage in fast-break points. The Miners dished out 18 assists while committing just nine turnovers.
While there was plenty of praise to go around, the night belonged to Steinberga. She converted the energy from an emotional pre-game ceremony into a fitting sendoff, setting career highs for rebounds (17) and blocked shots (three). She sunk 8-of-19 shots and 6-of-8 at charity stripe on the way to setting the school record for consecutive double-digit scoring games at 20.
Thornton’s 15 boards equal her career best and helped propel her to the 19th double-double since joining the Orange and Blue. The school standard is 22, set by Amy Pack from 1999-2001.
Kelli Willingham drained four triples to also reach double figures in scoring. Overall the Miners filled up nine triples, which match their season high.
Tulane was led by 20 points and nine rebounds from Olivia Grayson.
UTEP will initiate action at the C-USA Championships against Marshall on March 13. The game will be broadcast locally in El Paso on 1150 AM and fans can also get updates by following the team on twitter (www.twitter.com/UTEPWBB ).