Brady Phelps, The Paisano

Sara Anastasieska holds up the universal 3-point symbol as she makes a basket. Photo by Brady Phelps, The Paisano

The UTEP Miners sat atop Conference USA (C-USA) with an impressive 25-2 record heading into the final regular season game on Thursday, March 3, when the Roadrunners pulled off a 69-64 upset.

UTSA guard Crystal Chidomere eludes the UTEP defense to wind down the clock.

UTSA guard Crystal Chidomere eludes the UTEP defense to wind down the clock.

The heavy favorite UTEP Miners’ (25-3, 16-2 C-USA) fall to UTSA (10-18, 6-12 C-USA) is likely to be remembered as UTSA’s grittiest performance of the year.

Behind a heroic 37 bench points, the Roadrunners overcame deficits as large as 12 points in the victory. Sara Anastasieska led all scorers with 14 points, Mathilde Hergott dropped 11 in the first half, and Crystal Chidomere chimed in with 12 points – 10 of which were scored in the second half. Alana Heard scored six and grabbed 10 boards.

At times, the Miners tried to pull away. Without leading scorer and rebounder Tesha Smith for the second consecutive game, UTSA gave up 15 offensive rebounds and struggled to score in the paint, but they rallied in the second half by driving and attacking. At one time, the difference in points in the paint was 14, but by the end of the game, it narrowed to only four.

When asked about Smith’s status for the upcoming C-USA tournament, UTSA Head Coach Lubomyr “Luby” Lichonczak had “no comment on Tesha at all.” Smith missed both the Senior Day game against Old Dominion and the season finale against UTEP, and is expected to miss at least part of the conference tournament, although the reason has not yet been disclosed.

Despite reaching the bonus with over three minutes remaining, the Miners were only able to draw two fouls and went just 1-for-4 from the line. UTSA caused three Miners to foul out, leaving the second unit to try and close out the game.

Brady Phelps, The Paisano

The UTSA women’s basketball coaching staff sprays silly string on the players as they sign autographs after the last home game of the season. Photo by Brady Phelps, The Paisano

After the game, Chidomere spoke of the team’s “animosity and hate” towards the Miners, which drove her stellar second-half performance.

At the C-USA tournament in Birmingham, UTSA will begin tournament play ranked 11 out of 14. The Roadrunners face FIU at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8, and the winner of that game will face Marshall the following evening.

When asked how the UTEP win will affect the team, coach Lichonczak firmly stated that the Roadrunners “are capable of playing with and beating anybody.” Over the next few days, they will have the chance to prove their coach right.

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