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UTEP knocks off Arkansas St. in WNIT second round

EL PASO, TEXAS- UTEP shot 44 percent (28-63) from the floor and controlled the glass (39-29) on the way to knocking off an outstanding Arkansas State team, 74-68, in front of an energized 5,023 fans at the Don Haskins Center Monday evening.

The Miners (28-4) advance to the WNIT “Sweet 16” and will play host to TCU (18-14) at 7:05 p.m. MT Thursday . Tickets are $10 (general admission) and $4 (UTEP students), and will be on sale at 9 a.m. MT Tuesday at the University Ticket Center. Fans may also visit or call (915) 747-5234 to purchase tickets.

Meanwhile the regular-season Sun Belt Conference Champion Red Wolves conclude their campaign at 27-5 after falling to UTEP in the WNIT for the second time in three season.

Sparkle Taylor (18 points, six rebounds), Jenzel Nash (16 points, three assists and two steals) and Cameasha Turner (16 points, eight boards, three steals) led the way for the Miners, but the biggest bucket of the night was courtesy of Agata Dobrowolska.

It was tied at 68 in the final minute of action before the senior sunk a turn-around jumper with 45 seconds to account for the game’s fourth and final lead change. A-State, which was led by 21 points from Aundrea Gamble and 19 by Khadi Brown-Haywood, decided to go for a three pointer on the ensuing possession.

UTEP defended Brown-Haywood well and after securing the rebound, got a bucket from Nash on a nifty out-of-bounds play. Dobrowolska was credited with an assist on the play. Nash got a steal on the next A-State possession, and Dobrowolska iced the game with two free throws.

“This was a tough, challenging game against Arkansas State,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “I’m proud of our team, and I’m proud of El Paso. Rebounding was the difference in the game. You cannot afford to give Arkansas State second-chance opportunities. We played hard and I’m very proud.”

Second-chance points (19-8), fast break (7-0) and bench points (28-8) all favored the Miners. UTEP also connected on 13-16 at the charity stripe to help offset A-State’s 47.2 percent (25-53) from the floor.

The Miners were ready to go from the opening tip, bolting out to a 19-14 lead after the first quarter. Spurred on by the crowd, UTEP extended the advantage to 12 (36-24) with four minutes left in the second quarter before the Red Wolves tallied the final six points in the frame to get within six (36-30) at the break.

A-State continued to chip away in the third quarter, eventually whittling the Orange and Blue’s advantage down to one (52-51) before Taylor’s turnaround jumper made it a three-point game.

Taylor, Turner and Starr Breedlove helped get UTEP some much-needed breathing room with a 9-2 run to start the fourth quarter. The Red Wolves didn’t flinch, though, responding with back-to-back triples to make it a two-point game (61-59) 7:03 to play. They eventually managed to even pull into the lead at 67-66 after a pair of Gamble free throws.

Breedlove misfired on the ensuing possession but Taylor crashed the offensive glass and was fouled on a putback attempt. She calmly drilled both free throws to send UTEP back ahead, and the home side did not trail from that point.

The visitors forced the sixth and final tie of the tilt with a free throw by Lawson with 1:09 remaining in regulation. After a UTEP timeout, the ball was worked around the wing before it was dumped into Dobrowolska. The senior spun and scored on a beautiful turn-around jumper.

A-State’s Brown-Haywood misfired on a three-pointer on its next trip down and Breedlove came up with the rebound in traffic. The visitors fouled to give UTEP the ball out of bounds, and the Miners executed to perfection. Nash got it into Dobrowolska, who sent it back to Nash for a wide-open lay-up to bring the roof off the Haskins Center.

Nash got a steal on the ensuing possession, and Dobrowolska iced the game with two tosses at the charity stripe.

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