FRISCO, Texas (AP)Jalynn Gregory scored 22 points, Kseniya Malashka had 18 points and 14 rebounds and No. 25 Middle Tennessee beat fourth-seeded UTEP 68-62 on Friday to advance to the championship game of the Conference USA Tournament.
Middle Tennessee led for 37 minutes with UTEP’s last lead at 48-47 after N’Yah Boyd scored the opening five points of the fourth quarter.
UTEP forward Elina Arike was left open for a 3-pointer to get within 61-59 but Courtney Whitson answered with a 3-pointer from the corner with 45.2 left. The Miners missed a quick 3-pointer on their next possession and Whitson made 1 of 2 free throws for a six-point lead.
UTEP missed another jumper and Savannah Wheeler made 1 of 2 free throws with 21.8 left. Arike sank a long 3-pointer with to get within four points, but Gregory added two free throws to seal it.
Whitson finished with 18 points for Middle Tennessee (27-4). Wheeler, who entered averaging 15.8 points per game with 28 points on Thursday, finished with one point after going 0 for 7 from the field.
Middle Tennessee will face Western Kentucky, a 70-55 winner over University of Texas-San Antonio, in Saturday’s title game.
Malashka, the sixth player of the year, made five of her first eight shots for 12 points as Middle Tennessee build a 25-14 lead. UTEP had just four field goals with seven minutes left in the half, but Boyd converted a three-point play to start a half-closing 13-3 run to get within 32-27.
Arike finished with 23 points and Boyd scored 18 for UTEP (20-11).
— AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25