March 9, 2012
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The UAB women's basketball team was eliminated from the Conference USA Championship with a 60-49 loss Friday to top-seeded UTEP in semifinal action at the FedExForum.
The Blazers (19-11) set a tournament record and matched the overall league record with only five turnovers, while forcing UTEP into 21 giveaways. But, in the end, UAB could not turn enough of those opportunities into points.
A day after shooting a season-best 53.8 percent from the floor, the UAB offense tailed off as the Blazers came up a game short of their second conference finals appearance in three years. UAB knocked down 26.8 percent against the regular-season champion Miners.
UTEP (28-3) earned a spot in Saturday's C-USA championship game against No. 3 seed Tulane, which advanced in Thursday's first game over No. 2 seed Memphis.
"I am extremely proud of my women and how hard they fought," UAB head coach Audra Smith said. "We were in a position here in the semifinals to compete and to get ourselves into the championship game tomorrow, but unfortunately it didn't come out on our end. I am proud of the way they fought, the way they stuck together and how hard they played."
Sophomore forward Karisma Chapman scored a game-high 19 points for the second game in a row to lead the Blazers offensively, connecting on 7 of 14 attempts from the floor. Chapman also logged four steals, giving her 10 in UAB's two tournament games as she set a C-USA Championship record for steals average at 5.0.
Senior guard LaShaunda Pratt was the only other UAB player to reach double figures with 10 points, while UTEP guard Kelli Willingham paced the Miners with 15 points. UTEP played 12 players and got scoring from 11 of them.
The Miners held a 46-23 advantage on the boards, marking the biggest disparity of the season for UAB. UTEP attempted 16 fewer shots but made good on three more of them than the Blazers. UTEP also connected on 23 of 28 attempts from the foul line, including 19 of 22 in the second half.
UAB opened up an eight-point lead near the midway point of the first half, but UTEP was able to rally to tie the score at the half, 24-24.
The game was tied as late as 34-34 with 12:23 to play before UTEP slowly started to build a lead. A layup by Willingham gave the Miners a 46-38 advantage with 7:04 to play, and UAB never again got closer than six points.
UAB's last best chance came trailing 52-45 with 2:24 left with Khalilah Watson stealing a pass and starting a fastbreak, but the Blazers suffered one of their few turnovers on the night as they tried to cut the lead to five. From there, UTEP extended its lead at the free throw line.
Friday's appearance was the fourth all-time for UAB in the C-USA semifinals. The Blazers -- which reached the championship game two years ago -- are now 2-2 all-time in the semifinal round.