The UTEP women’s basketball team will make its first appearance in the WNIT when it plays host to Sun Belt Conference regular-season champion Arkansas State (22-11) at the Don Haskins Center Friday. Ticket information and the time of the contest will be released Tuesday.
The victor will advance to play Saint Mary’s California or CSU Bakersfield. The Miners (24-7) received an at-large bid to the event, joining five other Conference USA squads. C-USA led all leagues with Charlotte, East Carolina, Old Dominion, Southern Miss and Tulane
It marks the second time in the past three seasons and fourth occasion overall that UTEP will play postseason basketball (2008 & 2012 NCAA Tournament).
UTEP will enter the event at 24-7 on the year, with the 24 victories ranking third on the school’s single-season ranking. It marked the third consecutive 20+ win campaign, a program first. The Miners advanced to the C-USA Tournament semifinals for a third straight season while setting several school records across the board.
Included among them are field-goal attempts (2,003), free-throws made (564), attempted (791), home wins (17), points (2,417), scoring offense (78.1) and three-points attempted (593).
The Orange and Blue have posted 19 double-digit victories, which is one shy of the school standard (20, 2011-12). They are also closing in on the single-season records for field goals (831, record of 861, 2007-08) and three-pointers made (191, record of 201, 1988-89).
UTEP’s special senior class of Kayla Thornton, Kristine Vitola and Kelli Willingham will lead the charge for the Miners at the WNIT. The trio, which already owns the school standard for best record by a class (91-36), will become the first class to compete in multiple postseason tournaments during their careers.
Now in its 17th year, the Postseason WNIT is the second longest current running postseason event for women’s college basketball, behind the NCAA Tournament. In addition, it is the only men’s or women’s postseason tournament – other than the NCAA – to offer an automatic berth to each of the 32 established conferences.
All games during the tournament are hosted by participating schools with first-round games opening March 19-21, followed by round two (March 22-25), round three (March 26-28), round four (March 29-31), semifinals (April 2-3), and championship (April 5 at 3 p.m. ET). The championship game will be nationally televised live in HD on CBS Sports Network with Thad Anderson (play-by-play) and Ceal Barry (analyst) calling the action.