No. 20 Arizona edges UTEP in defensive battle


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP forced 23 turnovers and held No. 20 Arizona to its lowest scoring output in a nonconference game in three years, but couldn’t get enough shots to fall in a 54-43 loss at the Don Haskins Center Saturday afternoon.

The Miners (7-2) limited the Wildcats (9-0) to 38.0 percent shooting (19-50), including just 7.1 percent (1-14) from three point range. Arizona entered the contest averaging 78 points per game and shooting 49 percent from the floor. UTEP also kept All-American Aari McDonald in check. McDonald finished with just 13 points on 4-14 shooting, eight points below her average scoring output.

The defensive effort, particularly over the final three quarters, helped give Arizona its smallest margin of victory on the year. The Wildcats brought a +33 scoring margin into the game.

Ariona Gill (11 points) and Katia Gallegos (10 points) paced UTEP on offense. The Miners shot 43 percent in the opening frame, but couldn’t sustain that on the way to finishing at 25.9 percent (15-58) for the game.

UTEP was down just nine points with three minutes to play, but the Miners could get no closer, with the Wildcats hitting enough free throws down stretch to hold on.

“I’m really, really proud of our team,” said UTEP head coach Kevin Baker. “We played terrific defense, especially in the fourth quarter. We held them to one field goal in the whole fourth quarter. That had a lot to do with our defensive energy, with the energy in the Haskins Center. I thought our fans were terrific today. We’re just going to get better and better.”

The Wildcats were led by Cate Reese’s double-double (19 points, 17 rebounds).

Despite the loss, the Miners feel like there is a lot to build off of in competing with a Top 25 opponent with such a young team. A team that fed off the crowd in what turned out to be a chippy game.

“It’s exciting that everyone is for you, everyone’s cheering for you and you got the momentum going,” said freshman guard Katia Gallegos. “It’s going to be easier for us to follow this up with some shots we’ll take, some plays we’ll make and I believe we can do it. This gives us confidence.”

The Miners will be idle for final exams before returning to action at SMU on December 19.

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