UTEP women storm back to beat NMSU in overtime, 82-78

College Sports

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Katia Gallegos poured in a career-high 26 points (career-best 16-of-20 on free throws made and attempted), and the UTEP women’s basketball team (7-1) gutted out an 82-78 thrilling overtime win at I-10 rival NM State (3-5) to complete the season sweep of the Aggies Wednesday evening.

The Miners were without the services of leading scorer Destiny Thurman (16.0 ppg), who missed the game with an injury, and had two starters foul out, but they refused to fold up shop despite NM State carrying an eight-point lead heading to final quarter. Gallegos tallied six points in the final frame, including a free throw to force OT with 14 seconds left.

UTEP pulled ahead for good two minutes into overtime, and staved off the Aggies-including a blocked shot by Brenda Fontana on a potential game-tying three with less than five seconds left. There were eight ties and 10 lead changes with the Orange and Blue’s largest lead being the final score after Gallegos fittingly iced the contest at the charity stripe.

The effort improves UTEP to 7-1 on the season, marking the second time in the past three seasons that it has achieved the feat under head coach Kevin Baker. Elina Arike joined Gallegos in double figures with 16 points while Teal Battle and Eliana Cabral each netted nine points.

The Miners attacked and attacked, piling up 35 free throws made (tied fourth most in program history) on 46 attempts (seventh most in school history). They were also competitive on the glass (35-34 NM State).

“It was just a good back-and-forth college basketball game” Baker said. “Even when NM State built the lead to eight, I don’t think they felt comfortable with it. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable with it. That game was going to come down to the wire.

“If you wonder why I didn’t call any timeouts during the game, I just felt like it was going to go down to the fourth quarter and I was going to need every one of my timeouts late,” Baker said. “This is just a great team win. You look at all the little things we did. It’s a complete team win. We knew Destiny (Thurman) wasn’t playing, so we said before the game we needed to have her back and we needed everyone to step up.”

UTEP scored first on a jumper off a curl by Avery Crouse, but NM State countered with an 11-3 run to lead by six (11-5) with 5:27 to play in the opening frame. Arike stopped the run with soft touch on a baby hook shot. After NM State split a pair of free throws, Gallegos buried a trey to make it a two-point game (12-10, 3:44 1Q). The Aggies regrouped and vaulted out by nine (22-13, 1:22 1Q). The Miners took it in stride, countering with five consecutive points to make it a four-point affair (22-18) through 10 minutes of action.

The Aggies methodically moved their lead back out to nine midways through the second quarter, but once again the Orange and Blue had an answer. It came in the form of 7-0 spurt spanning only 94 seconds. Gallegos started with a step-back triple- her second of the game- which was followed by a stop, a score, a stop and a score to get it down to two. After yet another step, Fontana sank two free throws to pull UTEP even. It was back-and-forth the rest of the way with a late basket allowing the home side to secure a three-point cushion (42-39) over the Miners at the break. 

UTEP scored the first three points of the third quarter to regain the lead at 43-42, its first advantage since a 2-0 edge following the opening possession of the contest. It was back-and-forth over the next few minutes with both sides striving to seize momentum. Petree came up with a steal to set up Gallegos in transition, affording the Miners a one-point cushion (49-48). NM answered with a 5-0 push but two free throw tosses by Gallegos halted it. It was short-lived as the Aggies pushed their lead back out to eight (59-51). It remained an eight-point differential (61-53) heading to the final frame.

The Miners scored six of the first seven points of the fourth quarter, and just like that it was a three-point tilt (62-59). It was a two-point differential in favor of NM State (66-64) coming out of the final media timeout of the game when a reversal on the call on the court (charge changed to block) fouled out Crouse and afforded NM State a pair of free throws. The Aggies split the pair and eventually extended the lead to five (69-64). Gallegos kept the Orange and Blue within striking distance, eventually forcing overtime with a free throw with 16 seconds to play.

It was more of the same in overtime before a lay-up by Cabral with 2:55 left put the Miners up by two. They led be three in the waning seconds, and NM State had multiple 3-point shots to tie the game on consecutive possessions not go down, including a rejection by Fontana on the latter to ice the game.

“I thought we executed so well in the fourth quarter,” Baker said. “I’m just so proud of them, mainly the resiliency. We’re going to enjoy this one. This was a tough road win, but that’s where you build your resiliency and your championship teams”

UTEP returns to action when it plays at I-25 rival New Mexico at 6 p.m. MT Sunday (Dec. 19).

Aggies Drop Overtime Stunner in Round Two of the Battle of I-10
The New Mexico State women’s basketball team was edged out by UTEP in a mid-week thriller

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – In another battle till the end, the Aggies fell to their rivals from the Sun City in overtime, 82-78.
 
In a contest that featured 10 lead changes and eight moments in which the score was dead even, NM State still held the lead for a total of 33 minutes and 49 seconds. However, the hometown Aggies saw their largest deficit of four points come at the final buzzer.
 
Sophomore Taylor Donaldson exploded for a career-high 25 points to lead the way for the Aggies. The Newbury Park, Calif., native also posted two steals and two blocks in an efficient 36 minutes of playing time off the bench. Fellow second-year guard Molly Kaiser added to the offensive production from the bench as she poured in 12 points, including going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.
 
The Aggies looked spry off the opening tip as they connected on a pair of layups and jumped out to a 7-3 lead as Mel Isbell knocked down a three-pointer in transition. Following a made Miner shot, Tayelin Grays then went on a four-point solo scoring run to help the Aggies pull ahead 11-5 with 5:59 remaining in the opening period.
 
UTEP responded to draw NM State within just two points before Grays and Soufia Inoussa combined to help the Aggies go on an 8-3 run and give NM State a seven-point advantage with under two minutes to play in the first quarter. A pair of Taylor Donaldson free throws helped the Aggies go ahead by nine points with 1:22 on the clock. Despite being stifled for much of the first quarter, the Miners finished the period on a 5-0 scoring run to set the score at 22-18 in favor of NM State entering the second quarter.
 
Bigue Sarr began to make her presence felt to open the second quarter as she pulled down her third offensive rebound and scored a second-chance layup, putting the Aggies ahead six points. However, the Aggies’ dominant post player was limited to just 19 minutes of playing time due to foul trouble that began when she picked up her second personal foul with over five minutes remaining in the half. With the Aggies’ leading scorer having to sit, Donaldson emerged as the go-to option in the second quarter as she finished with 10 in the period to finish the half just one point shy of her career-high.
 
When the Miners battled to even the score at 34 with 4:09 remaining in the half, Donaldson knocked down a pull-up jumper to put the Aggies up two points and end a quick two-minute UTEP run. Graduate student Adrianna Henderson saw her first action of the season in the second quarter and scored four points from the free-throw line to assist in putting the Aggies ahead 40-37 with 39 seconds left in the half. UTEP guard Katia Gallegos then knocked down two free throws of her own before Donaldson took an Inoussa handoff and hit a jumper with four seconds on the clock to lift the Aggies to a three-point advantage at the half.
 
The third quarter was back-and-forth from the start as the first five minutes and 25 seconds saw the lead switch hands eight different times. The Aggies then pulled ahead thanks to a 9-2 scoring run that featured five points from Donaldson and four from Kaiser, putting the Aggies up eight points with 1:55 left to play in the third. NM State would sustain this edge and carry a 61-53 lead into the fourth quarter.
 
The Miner squad came out of the break firing on all cylinders as they pulled even with 5:43 remaining in the fourth quarter. Both teams saw exactly half of their fourth-quarter points come from the charity stripe as UTEP went 10-for-14 and the Aggies knocked down 6-of-8 from the free-throw line. Behind a free throw from Gallegos, the Miners tied the score at 73-73. In the face of UTEP’s pressure, the Aggies still had a chance to emerge victorious as head coach Brooke Atkinson drew up a play with 16 seconds remaining on the clock. However, the UTEP defense proved to be up to the task as they did not allow the Aggies to get a look at the rim and forced an Aggie turnover as the clock expired.
 
The Aggies’ emerging star Donaldson scored first in the extra period to put her team ahead before a four-point UTEP scoring run gave the Miners a lead they would never relinquish. Trailing by three points, a Donaldson three-pointer from the corner with 15 seconds on the clock was the Aggies’ final opportunity at pulling even with their rivals as the Miners went on to bury free throws down the stretch and prevail 82-78.

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