22-10, 9-7 Conf
29-3, 15-1 Conf

UTEP rallies past Tulane to win C-USA tourney

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Gloria Brown took over in the second half and carried Texas-El Paso to its latest step in an historic season.

Brown scored 18 of her 20 points in the second half, keying a rally that led the Miners to the Conference USA women's tournament championship Saturday night with a 69-65 victory over Tulane.

"I wasn't playing well in the first half," Brown said. "Then my teammates were like, 'G, I know you can do it.' They just believed in me. I guess I got more touches. My teammates found me, and I made the shots."

Brown shot 7 of 9 from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds as the top-seeded Miners (29-3) won their first conference tournament title in the program's history, and earned an automatic bid to the women's NCAA tournament.

"These ladies have made history," Miners coach Keitha Adams said. "They have done something that we've never done in our program, and that's win the conference tournament. All year long I've been constantly reminding them that they haven't done anything. They've definitely made history, and it's a great win."

Kayla Thornton added 14 points, while Erika Warren finished with 12 for UTEP.

Olivia Grayson scored 14 points to lead Tulane, which was seeking its sixth tournament title. Adesuwa Ebomwonyi, Danielle Blagg and Tyria Snow each had 11 for the third-seeded Green Wave (22-10).

The Miners shot 52 percent from the field after halftime to pull away after Tulane had built the lead to 12 points near the 15-minute mark of the second half.

But UTEP players and Adams said there never was a concern, especially as Brown, the Miners leading scorer at 11.6 per game, took over.

Asked when she knew the comeback was on, Brown replied: "When I started putting my head into the game and playing."

The teams were tied at 60 with 3:34 left as Brown led the Miners comeback. She didn't score the basket that tied the game, but when the defense collapsed on her, she connected with a cutting Kristine Vitola, who hit the layup to pull even.

Brown's two free throws with 2:48 left put the Miners ahead to stay. But things got a bit dicey as the Miners misfired on their free throws down the stretch. Brown saved things with 29 seconds left when she grabbed an offensive rebound -- her 10th -- when Kelli Willingham missed a free throw.

Brown hit one of two free throws with 13.9 left for the final margin of victory.

"Some of her looks were rebounds," Tulane coach Lisa Stockton said of Brown's second-half play. "She went and got the ball and put it in, and made her free throws. We had our opportunities, and didn't make the best of them."

Stockton added Brown and the Miners got on the boards down the stretch, something Tulane had control of as they built the lead to as many as 12.

"I thought (rebounding) hurt us in the last 5 minutes," Stockton said. "Up until then, we had done a pretty good job, and that's kind of how we kept the lead. Even when they missed, we were able to chase the rebound down. In that last little bit, they made a lot of shots, but then they got some second-chance opportunities."

Tulane was able to take a 34-28 lead into halftime by shooting 43 percent from the field, including 3 of 8 from outside the arc.

Snow had eight points to lead the Green Wave.

Thornton was 4 of 8 from the field for UTEP, including 2 of 4 from outside the arc for 10 points. Warren matched Thornton's 10 first-half points for the Miners.

"We were struggling in the first half," Adams said. "We were kind of struggling with each other. At halftime we talked about those things. I think in the second half, we had our minds right and our focus was right."

Tulane was able to maintain the advantage in the early stages of the second half as Blagg hit six straight points.

The Green Wave extended the lead to 44-33 when Snow connected on an 8-footer. And the Tulane advantage eventually reached 46-34 with 15:12 to play.

But UTEP wiped away the margin with a 17-4 rally, including six straight points by Brown. Chrishauna Parker's 3-pointer with 7:46 left capped the run, giving the Miners a 51-50 lead.

It wasn't until Brown's two free throws with 2:48 remaining that UTEP took the lead for good at 62-60.