The women’s basketball team finished its season Thursday night in El Paso after falling in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, 66-62 against University of Texas El-Paso.
“A big difference in the game at UTEP was the incredible crowd and home court advantage,” head coach Julie Goodenough said. “They are very talented team anyway but the awesome pep band and engaged crowd was a big key to their undefeated home record.”
Despite shooting just 17.2 percent in the first half, the Wildcats only trailed by two points heading into the fourth quarter after junior guard Alexis Mason drilled a three with nine seconds left in the third.
In the fourth quarter, each team found momentum, but neither team could pull away. UTEP started the final quarter with a 6-0 run, building a 49-41 lead with 8:57 remaining. But the Wildcats responded with an 11-0 scoring to take the lead by three with just over five minutes to play in the game.
UTEP had one last push left as over the next three minutes as the Miners outscored ACU 9-2 and regained the lead at 58-53 once and for all.
Senior guard Paris Webb was able to cut the lead to 64-62 with six seconds remaining, but the Miners calmly knocked down two free throws to seal the deal at 66-62.
“In spite of the crowd distraction, our team played with great poise and toughness,” Goodenough said. “We missed big free throws in critical times of the game, but give their fans credit for the deafening roar at every free throw attempt.”
As the regular season Conference-USA champion, UTEP entered the game as the highest seed left out of the women’s NCAA tournament, and brought one of their better defensive performances. The Miners forced a school-record 18 turnovers and outscored ACU 16-0 in fast break points.
The Wildcats were led on both sides of the ball by junior Suzzy Dimba, who recorded 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in 36 minutes. ACU also received 12 points from senior Whitney West Swinford in her last game as a Wildcat. West finished with 234 career three-pointers, just five behind the all-time leader Ashely King.
“This was an amazing season from start to finish,” Goodenough said. “This team responded so well to adversity and learned valuable lessons along the way. The chemistry and unity of this group of ladies was amazing and a huge factor in the tremendous success we enjoyed.”
At 26-4 the Wildcats secured the third most wins in program history and will have a unique chance to best that next season, as they will lose just two seniors in Webb and West. Goodenough and her team hope this year’s run will be the beginning of something special within the program.
“This season will hopefully just springboard our program to continue pursuing excellence in the form of championships and national tournaments,” Goodenough said.