Chrishauna Parker posted a huge double-double (21 points, 16 rebounds) to fuel the biggest comeback in program history, with UTEP erasing a 23-point second-half deficit to topple Southern Miss, 86-85, in overtime at the Don Haskins Center Wednesday evening.
The Golden Eagles (13-5, 2-3 C-USA) led 45-22 with 16:31 to play but the Miners (14-4, 3-2 C-USA) refused to quit. Kayla Thornton, who poured in a game-high 26 points, drilled a triple to start a 7-0 run. USM regrouped, but UTEP continued to chip away, getting within eight (60-52, 8:47 to play) after another Thornton three pointer.
The margin remained seven (74-67) with 2:33 to play in the game but UTEP continued to believe. Thornton hit two free throws & then after a Southern Miss turnover, Parker drove the rim for a lay-up to pull her squad within three (74-71, 1:55).
The Miners got another stop and after a missed jumper by Jenzel Nash, who joined Parker and Thornton in double figures with 13, Parker outworked the Golden Eagle post players to grab one of her nine offensive rebounds in the contest. The junior then made a brilliant pass to Kelli Willingham who drilled a triple to tie the tilt at 74 with 1:02 remaining in regulation.
The visitors quickly answered with a lay-up but Parker sank two clutch free throws with 34 seconds to play. USM misfired on a long three pointer with five seconds left, sending the game to overtime.
Southern Miss scored the first two points of the extra session but momentum belonged to UTEP. The Miners went on a 9-2 run to grab an 85-80 lead with just 1:37 left in the extra session, but on a night like tonight, no lead was safe.
USM’s Jamierra Faulkner drained a triple from well beyond the arc, and then Thornton’s shot came up short as result of a triple team. The Golden Eagles grabbed the rebound and got it ahead to Faulkner, who streaked in for the game-tying lay-up with 34 seconds left.
The Miners ran a play for Thornton, who was fouled going to the rim with nine seconds to play. She split the pair and then stole the ball on a bad pass from Faulkner to seal the improbable come-from-behind victory.
UTEP won the rebounding battle (46-44), while also enjoying advantages in points off turnovers (25-15) and second-chance points (22-14). Southern Miss did shoot 50.9 percent from the floor (28-of-55) but was doomed by its 22 giveaways and its inability to keep the Orange and Blue off the offensive glass.
Twenty of the Miners’ 46 rebounds came at the offensive end, helping compensate for a 28-of-81 effort (34.6 percent) from the floor. Playing a factor in UTEP’s overall low field-goal percentage was finishing 6-of-28 (21.4 percent) in the first half, which helped Southern Miss stake a 37-18 point advantage at the break.
Things didn’t look much better early in the second stanza, but thanks to the likes of Parker, Thornton and company, that deficit was nothing more than a distant memory by the final buzzer.