EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Coming off a 17-8 (13-5 in Conference USA) season in 2020-21, the UTEP women’s basketball team enters this season with high expectations. The Miners will open the season on Thursday night inside the Don Haskins Center when they play host to Incarnate Word.
“We are very excited to tip off our season on Thursday. We know that we have a talented squad and we have a chance to do big things in the next four months,” said fifth-year UTEP head coach Kevin Baker “We will play a very talented Incarnate Word team that challenged us to a very close game last season. Coach [Jeff] Dow has improved his roster and we know that this will be a tough challenge. We hope to see a great crowd on Thursday because this will be a fun four-game home stand in the Haskins Center.”
The Miners beat UIW, 67-63, last season in El Paso. Katia Gallegos led the Miners with 17 points and six assists, while Avery Crouse chipped in with 10 points and led the team with nine rebounds.
“As the team goes, our chemistry is building up everyday,” said Gallegos. “First game — we are really excited, especially to have the fans back in the stands. We are going to let it all out there. This season is going to be special. We all know it, and we’re ready to go.”
Miner fans caught a glimpse of the new squad in Sunday’s exhibition game, as UTEP ran away from St. Mary’s (TX), 83-45.
Gallegos, a sophomore point guard, returns as the team’s unquestioned leader on-and-off the court. The El Paso product was named All-Conference USA first team last season, the first Miner to do so since 2008 (Jareica Hughes). Gallegos led UTEP and was among Conference USA’s leaders in assists per game (5.0-third), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.62-sixth), and total steals (42-sixth). The former Franklin High School standout started in all 25 games for the Miners, and averaged a team-best 13.8 points per game.
Crouse, a sophomore guard, also started 25 games for UTEP last season. She averaged 7.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. Elina Arike played in all 25 games, starting in 24. The freshman forward ranked second on the team in blocked shots (six) and third in offensive rebounds per game (1.1). Junior guard Destiny Thurman played in 22 games, starting in 15. She ranked second on the squad in steals (26) and 3-point attempts (82), and third on the team in scoring (9.1 ppg). Brenda Fontana and Dagne Apsite also return to the fold for Baker.
The newcomers include true freshman guard Grace Alvarez (Heights HS [Houston]), graduate transfer forward Teal Battle (Arkansas-Little Rock), sophomore guard Eliana Cabral (New Mexico Junior College), sophomore guard Mahri Petree (Bradley), freshman forward Adhel Tac (TCU), junior G/F Masha Vasilevko (University of San Francisco), and sophomore guard Erin Wilson (Jacksonville University).
Tip-off on Thursday night is scheduled for 7 p.m. MT. The game will stream live on CUSA-TV.