Fresh off of claiming the school's third Conference USA regular season title in program history (2008, 2012 and 2016), the UTEP Miners continue to impress as the calendar turns to March. UTEP clinched the title on Feb. 27 when they outlasted Charlotte, 94-91, in double overtime in front of a roaring 4,012 fans at the Don Haskins Center.
UTEP, 25-2 overall and 16-1 in Conference USA play, matched school and league records for single-season Conference USA victories this year. The Miners also concluded the home portion of their schedule at a flawless 16-0, marking the second undefeated home campaign (14-0) in program history.
Leading the way for the Miners against Charlotte was junior guard Jenzel Nash, who enjoyed a monster game (career-high 31 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals) as UTEP pushed its overall win streak to seven while halting the 49ers’ undefeated surge at five. Nash made several big plays, but none bigger than with 19 seconds remaining in regulation and Charlotte holding a 72-70 lead. The 49ers inbounded the ball on the baseline and Nash somehow managed to come up with a steal, muscle up a shot that didn’t go but did result in a foul. She stepped to the line with 14.6 seconds left and calmly sank both charity stripe tosses (two of her 11 points in the fourth quarter) to send the game to overtime.
@UTEPWBB your 2016 C-USA Regular Season Champs! #MinerStrong pic.twitter.com/vot0U3FGpk— Ewa Laskowska (@CoachEwa) February 29, 2016
The Miners started the week by knocking off Old Dominion, 70-64, at home on Feb. 25. Cameasha Turner (18 points, eight rebounds and four steals), Starr Breedlove (16 points, four steals) and Sparkle Taylor (14 points) led the way for UTEP.
UTEP head coach Keitha Adams has come to rely on a deep team that has four players averaging in double figures, led by Nash, who averages 14.0 points per game. The top rebounding (40.4 per game) and forced steals (12.0 per game) team in the league, the Miners’ only two losses came at the hands of Long Beach State and Marshall. Quality non-conference wins over UC Riverside, New Mexico and New Mexico State helped set the stage for a successful Conference USA run.
The Miners will close out the regular season on March 3 at UTSA. The No. 1 overall seed for the upcoming Conference USA Tournament being played in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 8-12, UTEP will be gunning for its third-ever NCAA Tournament bid next week and first since 2012.
Honorable mention teams of the week: Albany, Florida Gulf Coast, Maine, Michigan State, Stanford and UC Riverside.