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Hughes leads UTEP to first regular season Conference USA title

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Jareica Hughes scored 23 points to lead UTEP (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) to an 89-74 victory over Central Florida on Sunday, clinching the Miners' first regular-season Conference USA championship in their 34-year history.

The victory was the 19th straight for the Miners (23-2, 14-0), who last lost Dec. 1 to Kansas State. UTEP's only other loss came to Nebraska in its season opener.

The league title is only the second for a women's program in the history of UTEP athletics and the first since the 1984 volleyball team won the Oil Athletic Conference crown.

"I thought we played and performed really well," UTEP coach Keitha Adams said. "UCF has a good young team and hit some shots, but we showed some composure and did what we had to do to win today's game. We're thrilled about the win."

Freshman Marshay White had 23 points for UCF (9-18, 2-12) before fouling out with 58 seconds left. Tia Lewis finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.

UTEP, which returns to Orlando as the No. 1 seed for the Conference USA tournament March 6-9, handed UCF its 12th loss in its last 14 games.

The Miners led by 15 points at halftime. An 11-0 UCF run cut UTEP's advantage to 56-52 with 13:09 remaining. The Lady Knights trailed 60-56 after a jumper by Jackie Akers with 11:21 left.

UTEP went on a 7-0 run to extend the lead to 11.

UTEP shot 56 percent from the floor. UCF had held 14 of its last 15 opponents to 50 percent shooting or less.

Kasia Krezel and Natasha Lacy each added 15 points for UTEP. Izabela Piekarska had 14 points and Tamika Williams added 11.