Marshall women, UTEP in 1st round
TULSA, Okla. -- Results from the regular season do matter.
Marshall University begins the Conference USA women's basketball tournament Wednesday against UTEP knowing it can win because it already did.
The Thundering Herd defeated the Miners, 59-47, on Feb. 14 in Cam Henderson Center.
"Knowing that we have already faced UTEP and had some success, hopefully that will give our kids confidence during the game," Marshall head coach Matt Daniel said.
No. 12 seed Marshall (9-20 season, 3-13 conference) takes on No. 5 seed UTEP (20-9, 8-8) at 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, in the Tulsa Convention Center.
Although Marshall was the last-place team in the standings, the Herd also posted wins against No. 2 seed East Carolina and No. 7 seed Memphis in Daniel's first season on the bench.
UTEP is defending the tournament championship.
"Our focus right now is completely on getting ready to face Marshall," said UTEP head coach Keitha Adams. "We will need to be ready to go and play a complete 40 minutes to have a chance to beat them."
The tournament is being played in Daniel's backyard.
Daniel is a native of Jonesboro, Ark., about 372 miles from Tulsa. He came to Marshall after four seasons as head coach at the University of Central Arkansas, about 250 miles from the tournament site.
He also spent one season (1995-96) in Tulsa as an assistant coach at Oral Roberts University.
"It's kind of in my neck of the woods," Daniel said. "It's very close to where I'm from so it's not unfamiliar to me. I'm very familiar with the environment.
"But, they have a gym just like anybody else with two goals and I hope we can score more than the other team."
Marshall will have to generate some offense from the lowest scoring C-USA team at 55.2 points per game. UTEP is third in defense, allowing an average of 58.2.
Sophomore guard Shay Weaver and 5-foot-10 junior forward Suporia Dickens are the Herd's leading scorers with averages of 9.2 and 8.3 respectively. Six other players add at least five per game, topped by 6-3 sophomore forward Chukwuka Ezeigbo at 7.6.
Weaver is sixth in conference 3-point field goal percentage (34.0) and third in 3-pointers per game (2.3).
Ezeigbo averages 6.3 rebounds a game.
"We have a lot of respect for Marshall," Adams said. "They beat us at their place in the regular season and they played people extremely tight. They are athletic, they run a lot of pick and rolls, they rebound. Boxing out, limiting turnovers and making our free throws will be very important."
UTEP, which scores 66.2 per game, is led by All-CUSA players Anete Steenberga (first team) and Kayla Thornton (second team) both with 15.3 averages.
Steinberga, a 6-2 senior from Latvia, is the only conference player in top 12 for points per game, rebounds (7.4) and field goal percentage (43.4). UTEP's only senior has double-figure points in 20 consecutive games.
The 6-1 Thornton, a junior, also averages 8.7 rebounds.
"UTEP is the defending conference champion and a NCAA tournament team," Daniel said. "They are certainly a tough team.
"We had some success against them early on, but they are probably playing some of their better basketball right now.:
The Marshall-UTEP winner gets No. 4 seed UAB (18-11, 9-7) in the quarterfinals.
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