Lady Tops Buried by Lacy, Miners in NCAA First Round

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- Natasha Lacy already knows what it's like to play in the NCAA tournament. She made sure her UTEP teammates will get at least a second game in this March run.

Lacy had 19 points and seven steals, Jareica Hughes added 17 points and the seventh-seeded Miners won in their NCAA tournament debut, beating Western Kentucky 92-60 on Saturday night in the first round of the Spokane Regional.

"We're excited to play again," Lacy said. "We were in the locker room and the seniors said we didn't want this to be our last game."

Lacy starred for three years at TCU, helping lead the Horned Frogs to the tournament each year, before transferring to her hometown school. After sitting out last season, Lacy helped UTEP (28-3) make its first trip to a postseason tournament. The Miners won 23 straight games before losing the Conference USA championship game to Southern Methodist.

But the Miners still earned an at-large bid and now get a shot against second-seeded Stanford (31-3) in the second round Monday night. The Cardinal beat Cleveland State 85-47 in an earlier game on their home court at Maples Pavilion.

"This tournament here is probably my best one just because it's my senior year and I'm back in my hometown," Lacy said. "There's so much history. This one is more special than all the other ones because of the experience leading up to this one. This one is probably over the top."

Lacy helped spark a late first-half run that gave UTEP the lead for good. She then scored the first basket in a 14-0 run that put the 10th-seeded Lady Toppers (26-8) away in the second half.

Lacy started the big second-half run by scoring on a put back underneath to make it 44-38. Izabela Piekarska and Hughes each hit 3-pointers in the spurt and Kasia Krezel's jumper made it 56-38 with 13:43 to go. The Miners coasted from there.

"One thing about our team is when we get our running game going we can be pretty explosive," coach Keitha Adams said. "We got that going and hit some 3s. You put that combination of running it, taking it to the basket and dropping the 3-point shot, and it was rolling on all cylinders."

Crystal Kelly ended her brilliant career for Western Kentucky with 17 points, moving into 12th place in NCAA history with 2,803. Dominique Duck led the way with 18 points for the Sun Belt tournament champions, who made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003.

"I don't know what went wrong. I will have to watch that again and take notes and try to get that figured out," coach Mary Taylor Cowles said. "It just wasn't very typical basketball for the Lady Toppers. Our defense is what got us here, but our defense is what not let us advance."

Krezel added 15 points for UTEP. Hughes had eight assists and Lacy had six assists and five rebounds.

It's been a remarkable turnaround in recent years for UTEP, which went 3-25 in Adams' first season in 2001-02. The Miners showed gradual improvement and won 22 games last year, but still had never made it to even a postseason NIT or gotten past the semifinals of their conference tournament.

That all changed this year, as the addition of Lacy to team with Hughes, Krezel and Piekarska helped UTEP reach new heights. The Miners lost their opener to Nebraska and their sixth game to Kansas State, but have only dropped one game since.

Lacy hit two long jumpers to score the final five points of a 9-0 run late in the first half that helped UTEP take a 38-31 lead into the break.

"It was a little sluggish on defense," Duck said. "We were late a lot, we didn't get hands up and UTEP executed on it."


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