UTEP to host Southern Miss on ‘Senior Day’

UTEP

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Four UTEP seniors will take the floor for the final time at the Don Haskins Center on Saturday. Neidy Ocuane, Jade Rochelle, Ariona Gill and Katarina Zec will be honored on ‘Senior Day’ as the Miners host Southern Miss in a Conference USA clash.

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THE OPENING TIP

The UTEP women’s basketball team (14-12, 7-8 C-USA) will play host to Southern Miss (14-12, 6-9 C-USA) on “Senior Day” at 1 p.m. MT Saturday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, and may be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234. The Miners knocked off USM, 89-72, in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Jan. 9, and are in search of a season sweep. UTEP is also looking to send out its four seniors (Ariona Gill, Neidy Ocuane, Jade Rochelle and Katarina Zec) in style. The quartet will be honored in a pre-game ceremony Saturday. UTEP is 11-6 at home (5-3 C-USA), while Southern Miss is 5-5 on the road (4-3 C-USA). UTEP is alone in seventh place in the league standings at 7-8, while Southern Miss is one game back in a tie for eighth place at 6-9. The contest will be streamed by CUSA.tv (subscription based). It will also be broadcast locally in El Paso on 600 ESPN El Paso with Duke Keith and Traci Miller on the call. 

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

UTEP is 2-0 on “Senior Day” under Kevin Baker Ariona Gill has hit double figures in scoring in eight straight games, and she is averaging 17.6 ppg and 10.4 rpg in the stretch … Katia Gallegos has the fourth-most assists (127) by a Miner freshman … Shalana Taylor (142 assists, 2004-05) holds the Miner freshman record in a year, followed by Jareica Hughes (137 assists, 2006-07) and Kelli Willingham (128 assists, 2010-11) … regardless of class, Gallegos is 10th on the UTEP single-season list … she needs two helpers to move into ninth, four to take over eighth, and 11 to vault up to seventh  

HE SAID IT (COACH BAKER ON SOUTHERN MISS)

“Southern Mississippi is arguably the hottest team in Conference USA. They have been winning as of late and are playing a little bit of a different style from when we played them last time. Both of us are playing some good basketball this time of year so we believe it is going to be a great game. There is a lot on the line for this game, so we know that they will bring a lot of good energy to the Haskins Center. We hope to see a big crowd as we hope to send our seniors off in style.”

REVISITING THE C-USA PRESEASON POLL

With the regular season winding down, the Miners continue to exceed the expectations based upon the Conference USA Coaches’ Preseason Poll. UTEP enters Thursday’s contest at 7-8 in the league and alone for seventh place. It was tabbed to finish 12th according to a vote by the league’s head coaches in the preseason. For perspective, North Texas sits in 12th place at 4-11 in C-USA action.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES

In 2018-19 the Miners were decimated by injuries and finished the year at 9-22, including 5-11 in C-USA action. It is a much different story this year, with UTEP (14-12, 7-8 C-USA) having surpassed both its overall and conference win total from a year ago. 

BIG WINS

Ten of UTEP’s victories have been by double figures, including seven of at least 20 points. It is the most wins by 20+ points since 2013-14 (nine). The Miners had their largest differential (+45) under head coach Kevin Baker in a 92-47 drubbing of Alcorn State (11/16/19), which tied as the 10th-biggest margin of victory in program history. They’ve also taken down UTSA (1/18/20) by 40 (94-54), Florida Atlantic (1/4/20) by 31 (96-65), FIU (1/2/20) by 30 (64-34), Western Michigan (11/29) by 30 (76-46), at UTSA by 26 (85-59) and NM State (11/23/19) by 20 (64-45). Overall UTEP’s scoring margin (+6.5) is fifth in C-USA and 84th in the country. 

TALKING 30+ POINT WINS IN CONFERENCE

UTEP has three wins by at least 30 points in league play, which is the most such victories in a single season in program history. In fact the Miners had achieved the feat seven times total prior to this year, with the 2003-04 team (twice) previously holding the standard for a single season. 

FINDING ANOTHER WAY TO WIN

The Miners’ first four league wins were by an average of 29.5 points, but UTEP showed it has the ability to take care of business in a close contest against North Texas. The Miners rallied from a 10-point deficit on the way to holding off the Mean Green, 67-63, on Jan. 25. It also marked the first time this season that the Orange and Blue overcame deficits at the half (down five) and through three quarters (down three) to win a game. UTEP also was involved in a nail biter in its 82-76 OT victory against Charlotte on Feb. 6. The Miners trailed by four with two minutes to play in the contest before rallying to force OT.

GAME FORMAT

NCAA women’s basketball games are played in four 10-minute quarters. Teams reach the bonus and shoot two free throws on the fifth team foul in each quarter. In the four-quarter format, team fouls reset to zero at the start of each frame. Teams have four timeouts (three 30s, one 60), three of which carry over to the second half. They will be able to advance the ball to the frontcourt after a timeout with less than 59.9 seconds in 4Q. There are seven media timeouts (four under five minutes in quarter/first called), two intermission media timeouts (after first and third quarters) and the first team-called timeout during the second half. Bands or amplified music may play during any dead ball.

GET TO KNOW SOUTHERN MISS (14-12, 6-9; 9-7 HOME; 5-5 ROAD; 0-0 NEUTRAL)

Southern Miss is got off to an 11-4 start on the season, including 3-1 in C-USA play. The Lady Eagles then ran into trouble by falling in seven straight contests. USM recovered to win three in a row before narrowly being edged by Charlotte, 59-55, last time out on Feb. 22. It is impressive given that the Lady Eagles have been without the services of star point guard Shonte Hailes (16.8 ppg, 3.4 apg) due to an undisclosed injury for several contests. Respect Leaphart (14.4 ppg) pace the attack, with three others contributing at least 6.0 ppg. Daishai Almond has stepped into the point, compiling 4.1 apg (fifth C-USA). Amber Landing (1.6 blocks per game-third C-USA) and Alarie Mayze (1.9 steals per game-third C-USA) both influence the contest defensively. The Lady Eagles are among the league leaders and top-100 nationally for steals per game (9.9-second/42nd), total steals (258-second/48th), turnovers forced per game (18.6-fourth/56th), field-goal percentage (41.9-fourth/89th). They have struggled with committing fouls (19.0 fpg-12th C-USA), though that is a by-product of playing pressuring defense. USM has made eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament (4-8 record), but it hasn’t been there since 1995-96. It also has WNIT showings (6-5 record), including as recently as the 2017 edition. Notable Southern Miss alumni include Clifton Hyde (musician, Blue Man Group), Brett Favre (three-time NFL MVP QB & Hall of Famer) and Robert L. Stewart (former NASA astronaut).

THE SERIES (OVERALL: UTEP LEADS, 14-9; IN EL PASO: UTEP LEADS, 6-4)

UTEP leads the series, 14-9, including a 6-4 margin when playing in El Paso. The Miners emerged victorious, 89-72, at USM on Jan. 9, in the first meeting between the programs. Southern Miss had claimed four of the past five meetings. Twenty two of the 23 match-ups between the programs have come since 2005-06 when UTEP joined C-USA. 

LAST MEETING WITH SOUTHERN MISS: UTEP 89, AT SOUTHERN MISS 72, 1/9/20

Fueled by the highest scoring first half on the road in program history, UTEP surged to an 89-72 win at Southern Miss on Jan. 9. The Miners’ 89 points tie as the most in league road contest in school history. They also did so in an 89-74 win at UCF on Feb. 24, 2008. UTEP piled up 51 points to lead the Lady Eagles by 20 at the break on the way to their third victory in as many league games. It marked just the second home loss of the campaign for USM, which slipped to 8-2 inside Reed Green Coliseum this year. Freshman Katia Gallegos set career highs in scoring (23) and assists (eight) to lead the way. She was joined in double figures by fellow starters Katarina Zec (21 points), Ariana Taylor (14 points) and Ariona Gill (13 points). Avery Crouse pitched in six points, five rebounds and four assists. All five starters logged at least 30 minutes of action. UTEP drilled 52.5 percent (32-61) from the floor, the fourth-highest percentage in a road conference contest in program annals. Furthermore, the Miners have scored at least 89 points in consecutive league games for the first time in program history. They piled up 96 points in the home win against Florida Atlantic (1/4/20) before erupting for 89 points against USM on Jan. 9. The Orange and Blue forced 16 turnovers that were converted into 28 points. UTEP also controlled the boards (39-28), with Taylor’s career-high nine rebounds setting the tone in the area.

GOING BACK IN TIME (MT 92, at UTEP 58, 2/22/20)

Seniors Katarina Zec and Ariona Gill each scored 16 points to pace a quintet of players in double figures, but Middle Tennessee used a barrage of 3-pointers and drives to the basket to slip past UTEP, 92-80, at the Don Haskins Center on Feb. 22. The Miners led by nine (15-6) early on in the contest, but once the Lady Raiders heated up the visitors were able to come back to spoil UTEP’s upset bid. MT nailed 12 three pointers, compared to four from UTEP, while shooting 47.8 percent overall (32-67) to shoot past the Orange and Blue. UTEP was a solid 41.4 percent (29-70) from the floor, but just 4-19 (21.1 percent) from 3-point range. UTEP tried to compensate for that by winning the boards (44-41) and forcing 19 turnovers, but MT’s firepower was too much. Anastasia Hayes (24 points) Aislynn Hayes (20 points), Alexis Whittington (20 points) and Taylor Sutton (15 points) combined for 79 points to lead the way for the visitors. Whittington did the majority of her damage from 3-point range, connecting on six of the team’s 12 treys. Yet in spite of that, the Orange and Blue trailed by four (81-77) with 4:38 remaining in regulation after a jumper from Zec. MT responded by closing the contest on an 11-3 run to stem UTEP’s rally bid. Freshman Katia Gallegos filled up the stat sheet with 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds while Avery Crouse (13 points) and Sabine Lipe (11 points) also hit double figures in scoring. Gill led the charge on the boards with a game-high tying nine rebounds, while Gallegos and Zec each secured six. UTEP did a solid job at the free-throw line by nailing 78.3 percent (18-23).

D-UP

UTEP is getting after it on defense in 2019-20, ranking among the league and national leaders for multiple defensive categories. The Miners lead C-USA and are 34th nationally in turnovers forced per game (19.5). They are also in the upper half of the league with 3-point field-goal percentage defense (29.5-fifth/85th) and scoring defense (64.2-seventh/168th). All of those figures were aided when UTEP set the program record for fewest points allowed in a conference contest by holding FIU to 34 points on Jan. 2.

YOUTH+EXPERIENCE IN STARTING LINEUP

UTEP has turned to its underclassmen to comprise 60 percent of the starting lineup for 18 of 26 contests on the year. Freshman Katia Gallegos has started all 26 games, with fellow classmate Avery Crouse (25 starts) earning all but one. Sophomores Ariana Taylor (10 starts) and Sabine Lipe (six starts) have also been in the line-up, along with freshman Arina Khlopkova (four starts). Seniors Ariona Gill (25 starts) and Katarina Zec (26 starts) have been the other fixtures for UTEP’s starting five. Junior Michelle Pruitt (eight starts) has also been among the starting five numerous times.

ZEC’S GAME GOING STRONG

Senior Katarina Zec has been a consistent performer across the board for the Miners in 2019-20, recently pouring in a career-high tying 22 points against ODU on Feb. 8. Overall she leads the team in scoring (12.8 ppg) and minutes played (31.5 mpg) while starting all 26 games. Zec also paces the unit for 3-pointers made (38) and attempted (106). Dating back to the end of last season, she has hit double figures in scoring in 32 of the past 38 contests, helping her join the UTEP 1,000+ points club. She enters Thursday’s contest with 1,075 points to rate 10th all time at UTEP.

BALANCED SCORING

Katarina Zec tops the team in scoring (12.8 ppg), but she is not the only capable scorer on the roster. Five other players are pitching in at least 5.0 ppg. They are in the form of Ariona Gill (11.9 ppg), Katia Gallegos (9.8 ppg), Avery Crouse (7.2 ppg), Ariana Taylor (6.6) and Michelle Pruitt (5.9 ppg). The balanced effort has played a big role in UTEP accounting for 70.7 points per game, which is third in C-USA and 70th in the country.

SHARING THE ROCK

Freshman Katia Gallegos has settled into the role as starting point guard, and is playing beyond her years. She has dished out 127 assists (10th on the UTEP single-season list) while committing 77 turnovers in 29.5 minutes per game. The El Paso native leads C-USA and is 48th nationally for assists per game (4.9). She is also fourth in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.7). Overall, UTEP’s 15.2 assists per game places second in the league and 50th nationally. 

GILL KEYING EFFORT ON THE BOARDS

UTEP has a +4.4 rebounding margin (third C-USA/68th NCAA), with Ariona Gill (9.0 rpg-fifth C-USA/65th NCAA) setting the tone. She has grabbed at least 10 boards in 10 games, including posting the second most by a Miner in  a road game and tying for the fifth most in program history with 18 boards in the win at UTSA on Feb. 20. The team’s leading scorer Katarina Zec (5.2 rpg) and No. 3 scorer Katia Gallegos (5.0 rpg) have also been helping out on the glass. Overall UTEP’s total of 1,062 rebounds is third in the league and 75th nationally.

GIVE ME THAT BALL

UTEP’s full-court pressure defense has given the opposition fits, with foes making 19.5 turnovers per contest (first C-USA/34th NCAA). UTEP has converted those into 18.0 points per game. Katia Gallegos (38 steals), Ariona Gill (35 steals) and Katarina Zec (31 steals) lead the way with each tallying more steals than total games played. Avery Crouse (26 steals) has also gotten after it.

SHUTTING DOWN THE 3-BALL 

UTEP has kept opponents 29.5 percent on 3-point percentage, which is fifth in the league and 85th in the nation. Twelve foes have been held to less than 28 percent from distance, including five below 10 percent. 

GETTING TO KNOW THE 2019-20 MINERS

The Miners returned three starters and seven letter winners from a year ago, including senior guard/forward Katarina Zec (10.1 ppg/4.4 rpg/1.9 apg), senior guard/forward Ariona Gill (8.7 ppg/4.4 rpg), sophomore forward Ariana Taylor (5.9 ppg), senior guard/forward Jade Rochelle (4.0 ppg/4.7 rpg), senior guard Neidy Ocuane (4.0 ppg/1.8 apg) and sophomore guard Sabine Lipe (3.2 ppg and 2.3 rpg). UTEP brought in seven newcomers (junior college transfers Tia Bradshaw, Michelle Pruitt and DejaNae Roebuck, and freshmen Avery Crouse, Katia Gallegos, Arina Khlopkova and Tatyana Modawar) to bolster the unit. The group features three top-100 JUCO players, including two All-Americans, and four high school standouts that produced a combined record of 105-27 at their respective schools. The squad is under the direction of third-year head coach Kevin Baker, who is assisted by Todd Buchanan, Anthony Anderson and Heather Karner.  

THE BAKER FILE (OVERALL: 384-179, COLLEGE: 162-78, UTEP: 40-48)

Kevin Baker is 40-48 in his third year at the helm of the UTEP women’s basketball team, including 14-12 this year. He registered the most wins (26) by any Miner coach through their first two years in program history, including setting the school standard for victories (17) in a debut season in 2017-18. The Miners have also won a game in back-to-back C-USA tournaments for the first time since a five-year stretch (2010-14). He is in his 18th year overall (384-179) as a head coach, including his eighth season (162-78) as a college head coach. He has a unique background which has seen him rise through the coaching ranks from the high school level, to NCAA Division III, then NCAA Division II and now his NCAA Division I position at UTEP. He has set school records for wins at every previous stop of his career, and has taken every prior school to the postseason with a total of five district championships. He is an eight-time Coach of the Year. In his most-recent posts prior to UTEP, Baker’s teams captured back-to-back conference championships at UT-Tyler and Angelo State. Baker led both a Division II (Angelo State) and Division III (UT-Tyler) school to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

WINNING NUMBERS UNDER BAKER

The Miners are 22-4 (9-3 this year) when scoring 70+ points under Kevin Baker. Other notable records in the Baker era include being 22-8 (9-2 this season) when allowing less than 60 points, 15-6 (3-2 this season) when drilling better than 40 percent from 3-point range (min. four makes), 15-5 (4-1 this year) when shooting at least 50 percent from the floor, 28-12 (9-4 this year) when holding the opponent to below 40.0 percent from the floor, 31-8 (13-0 this year) when leading after three quarters and 31-11 (13-1 this season) when up at the half.

BASIC FACTS ON UTEP

UTEP is 587-696 in its 46th season as a women’s basketball program, including standing 14-12 this year. The Miners have made four postseason bids (2016,-WNIT quarterfinals; 2014-WNIT runner-up, 2012-NCAA first round and 2008-NCAA second round), sporting a combined record of 9-4 (8-2 WNIT, 1-2 NCAA). UTEP has claimed four league championships (2016 C-USA regular season, 2012 C-USA regular season and conference tournament and 2008 C-USA regular season). It has a 1-1 record all time in league tournament title games, cutting down the nets in 2012 and falling in 2008. There have been six 20+ win seasons (all since 2006-07), UTEP has cracked the top-25 poll in two seasons (2015-16, 2007-08), including being ranked in the final six weeks in ‘07-08, while receiving votes in seven campaigns total (‘15-16, ‘13-14, ‘12-13, ‘11-12, ‘08-09, ‘07-08 and ‘06-07). The Miners have been mentioned in the AP Preseason Poll four times (most recent 2016-17). In 2008 UTEP became the first C-USA women’s team to finish undefeated in league play (16-0) while claiming the program’s initial league title. The Miners finished 15-1 in C-USA in 2012 in addition to also winning the program’s first conference tournament championship. UTEP owns the C-USA single-season record for winning streak at 23, which was set in 2007-08. The University of Texas at El Paso was founded in 1914. Notable alumni include former ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Sam Donaldson, well-respected and former NFL referee Ed Hochuli, former NASA astronaut Danny Olivas engineer & Dennis Poon, who designed Taipei 101 & some of the tallest buildings in the world.

SPECIAL RUN

The Miners are 169-114 since the start of the 2011-12 season, including 14-12 this year. UTEP has played postseason basketball three times during the stretch, making two deep runs in the WNIT (2014 runner-up, 2016 quarterfinals) and earning the C-USA automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament (lost, first round). The Orange and Blue have enjoyed 20 separate winning streaks of at least three games (11 such skids), and posted 97 double-digit victories (59 such losses) during that time frame.

HOME GAMES A PLENTY

UTEP will play a total of 18 home games in 2019-20 (11-5 thus far), which will be the most in the regular season for the Miners since also doing so in 2006-07. Nine of the 11 nonconference contests were slated for home. 

HOME SWEET HOME

UTEP has an all-time home record of 373-235, including standing 11-6 in the Don Haskins Center this year. The Miners have amassed a record of 177-62 at home since 2006-07, including 108-45 since 2011-12. UTEP has been particularly strong in nonconference play, standing 88-20 in the Sun City in such contests since 2006-07. 

TRAVEL TIME

UTEP is 151-378 all time on the road, including standing 3-6 in road tilts this year. When playing at a neutral site the Miners stand 62-82, including going 2-2 last season. Since the start of the 2006-07 season UTEP is 68-84 on the road, including 44-53 since 2011-12. 

ZEC IN THE CAREER RANKINGS

UTEP senior Katarina Zec has placed her name throughout the UTEP career records, most recently joining the 1,000-point club at the school against Charlotte on Feb. 6. She is fifth for games started (106), sixth for 3-pointers made (130) and in minutes played (3,238), seventh for 3-pointers attempted (377), 10th for field goals made (394) and points (1,075), 11th in field goals attempted (930), tied 12th for games played (113), 14th in assists (204), 28th in rebounds (432) and 30th for free throws made (157).

QUICK REVIEW OF LAST YEAR

There were some ups and downs in 2018-19, but UTEP played its best basketball late in the season to punch a ticket to the C-USA Championships for the second straight year. Once there 11th-seed UTEP made some noise by rallying from a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter to upset sixth-seed Marshall, 64-56, in double overtime (3/13/19). UTEP delivered its first road sweep in league play in three years with two wins in three days (at FAU, 70-44, 2/7/19 and at FIU, 60-55, 2/9/19). The 26-point differential at FAU was the second-biggest margin of victory in a conference road game in program history. UTEP also dispatched North Texas (59-51, 3/7/19) to improve to 2-0 on “Senior Day” under Baker. 

CONNECT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Fans are encouraged to connect with the Miners on Facebook (UTEP Women’s Basketball), Instagram (@utepwbb) and Twitter (@UTEPWBB). 

UP NEXT

UTEP will venture to preseason favorite Rice for a 6 p.m. MT/7 p.m. CT tip-off on March 5. The game is part of a season-closing stretch with five of seven on the road. The Miners will then wrap up the regular season at North Texas at 6 p.m. MT/7 p.m. CT on March 7.

CLIFF NOTES ON THE ‘19-20 SEASON

UTEP 85, at UTSA 59, 2/20/20

Avery Crouse poured in a career-high 21 points, Ariona Gill posted a monstrous double-double (17 points, 18 rebounds), and Katia Gallegos (17 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) and Michelle Pruitt (14 points) also got after it as UTEP used a huge fourth quarter to post a convincing 85-59 win at UTSA on Feb. 20. Gill’s 18 boards are the second most in a road game by a Miner, in addition to tying as the fifth-highest total ever in program history. The Miners (14-11, 7-7 C-USA) led by four (56-52) after 30 minutes of action before outscoring the Roadrunners (6-19, 2-12 C-USA) 29-7 in the fourth quarter to cruise to the road victory and get back to even in league play. UTEP won the boards (46-36), forced 22 turnovers that led to 28 points, piled up 56 points in the paint and shot a solid 45.0 percent (36-80). UTSA was a respectable 40.7 percent (22-54) from the floor, but it was held to just 20 percent shooting during the decisive final frame. Conversely, the Orange and Blue connected on 65 percent (13-20) over the final 10 minutes of action. UTEP shared the ball effectively by piling up 20 assists while committing only eight turnovers. Gallegos keyed the charge with seven helpers, while Katarina Zec dished out a quartet of assists and Crouse added three. The Miners piled up 22 offensive boards, with 10 of Gill’s career-best 18 rebounds coming at that end.

AT MARSHALL 76, UTEP 66, 2/15/20

Ariona Gill (21 points, eight boards) had another big day, but UTEP was tripped up at Marshall, 76-66, on Feb. 15. The Miners (13-11, 6-7 C-USA) shot 39.3 percent from the floor, won the boards (35-27) and took decent care of the ball (15 turnovers) only to have the Thundering Herd (11-13, 6-7 C-USA) overcome that with hot shooting. MU nailed 55.1 percent from the floor, including 11-24 (45.8 percent) from 3-point range. The Thundering Herd had entered the contest last in C-USA in field-goal percentage (.362), but managed to get going on all aspects Saturday. It spoiled the effort by Gill, who hit double figures in scoring for the sixth straight contest. She was buoyed by the all-around effort of Katia Gallegos (12 points, five rebounds, five assists). Katarina Zec (12 points, five boards) also got after it, while Avery Crouse pitched in seven points and four helpers. MU plated four in double figures, with Kristen Mayo (17 points) leading the way for the home side. UTEP had an 18-4 margin in second-chance points, in addition to advantages in points in the paint (30-26) and points off turnovers (17-12), but it wasn’t enough to offset the Thundering Herd.

AT WKU 78, UTEP 65, 2/13/20

Ariona Gill (19 points) and Michelle Pruitt (career-high 17 points) both had big scoring nights, but UTEP’s valiant comeback bid fell short in a 78-65 setback at WKU on Feb. 13. The Miners (13-10, 6-6 C-USA) trailed by 27 (44-17) with 3:29 to play in the first half, but they made the Lady Toppers (17-7, 9-3 C-USA) sweat by fighting back to get within five (66-61) with 2:45 remaining in regulation. Included in that was an 11-0 run to close the first half, setting the stage for the second half. The Orange and Blue couldn’t complete the rally, with WKU doing just enough to hold on for the win. Pruitt was a perfect 8-8 from the floor to post the seventh contest in program history with 100.0 percent shooting percentage (min. seven attempts). Katia Gallegos added nine points, seven boards and four assists, while Katarina Zec had seven points and seven rebounds. Sabine Lipe pitched in seven points and four assists. UTEP shook off a sluggish start to connect on 50.0 percent (28-56) from the floor, but it was hindered by committing 19 turnovers that led to 23 points for the home side. WKU opened up the game by making 57.9 percent (11-19) to lead by 15 (26-11) through 10 minutes of action. UTEP held the Lady Toppers to below 40 percent in each of the final three frames, but WKU still finished at  42.9 percent (30-70) from the floor. It also did a good job against UTEP’s vaunted press, with the Orange and Blue forcing 12 giveaways. UTEP was aggressive in getting to the hole, piling up 52 points in the paint compared to 36 by WKU. But ultimately the slow start to the game proved too much to overcome.

PRUITT’s PERFECT NIGHT

Michelle Pruitt had a perfect shooting night at WKU, finishing 8-8 from the floor on the way to tallying a career-high 17 points. She became the first Miner in 17 years and seventh all time to shoot 100% from the floor (min. seven FGA). Pruitt, though, is the first Miner to do so on the road.

ODU 77, AT UTEP 69, 2/8/20

Katarina Zec poured in a career-high tying 22 points and Ariona Gill (13 points, nine boards) and Katia Gallegos (11 points, seven assists, six rebounds) also got after it, but UTEP was tripped up by Old Dominion, 77-68, at the Don Haskins Center on Feb. 8. It was a back-and-forth contest with seven lead changes and eight ties. The Miners led by three (60-57) with 7:55 to play before the Monarchs (20-3, 10-1 C-USA) scored six straight-on back-to-back triples by Victoria Morris- to put UTEP down by three (63-60). UTEP continued to battle but could not pull back ahead, with the Monarchs making enough plays down the stretch to hold off the Orange and Blue. Sabine Lipe pitched in eight points in her second straight start, while Ariana Taylor provided a boost from the bench with six points and six rebounds. But it was Zec who stole the show for the home side, particularly over the first 10 minutes. Zec tallied 16 points, the second most in a frame in UTEP history, by going 6-7 from the floor (3-3 on triples) in the first quarter. UTEP shot 39.3 percent (24-61) from the floor and had 15 assists to 13 turnovers. The Miners also won the boards (42-41), but the Monarchs overcame that. Morris and Amari Young each scored 23 points to pace a trio of players in double figures for ODU. Morris was deadly from distance with seven triples, including the consecutive treys during the fourth quarter.

AT UTEP 82, CHARLOTTE 76, 2/6/20

Ariona Gill posted a monstrous double-double (career-high 25 points, career-high tying 14 rebounds), Katarina Zec scored 13 points to surpass 1,000 career points and Katia Gallegos (13 points) and Sabine Lipe (career-best 12 points) also hit double figures in scoring as UTEP outlasted Charlotte, 82-76, in overtime at the Don Haskins Center on Feb. 6. The Miners raced out to a 17-point (38-21) first-half lead only to have the 49ers strike back to take a four-point advantage (64-60) with 1:50 to play in regulation. UTEP didn’t flinch, peeling off seven straight points to pull back ahead by three (67-64) with 27 seconds left. After Charlotte tied the game with a triple from Octavia Jett-Wilson with 22 seconds remaining, both sides got defensive stops to send the contest to OT. Each team connected on a triple on its opening possession of OT before UTEP kicked it into high gear. The Miners ripped off 10 straight points over the next three minutes, effectively putting the contest away. Charlotte made a push with six consecutive points to get within four (80-76) with 32 seconds left, but a pair of UTEP free throws iced the tilt.

AT UAB 63, UTEP 51, 2/1/20

Avery Crouse (11 points), Katarina Zec (11 points) and Ariona Gill (10 points) all hit double figures in scoring, but an off shooting day loomed large in UTEP’s 63-51 setback at UAB on Feb. 1. The Miners finished at 29.5 percent from the floor (18-61), which was hindered by shooting 18.5 percent (5-27) over the first 20 minutes. The Blazers capitalized, putting UTEP in a 17-point hole (36-19) at the half. The Miners fought back after the break to get within eight (55-47) with four minutes left, but they couldn’t complete the comeback. The nation’s second-best 3-point shooting team lived up to its billing by connecting on 43.5 percent (10-23) from beyond-the-arc. Overall UAB finished at 47.1 percent (24-51) from the floor. Rachel Childress was the catalyst with 26 points on 10-13 shooting, including 4-5 from distance. Still UTEP’s defensive efforts were to be lauded after holding the top scoring offense in the league to 15 points shy of its seasonal average (78).

AT MIDDLE TENNESSEE 76, UTEP 60, 1/30/20

Ariona Gill posted a double-double (20 points, 12 rebounds), but UTEP dug itself an early hole and could never recover in a 76-60 setback at Middle Tennessee on Jan. 30. The Miners trailed by four (14-10) late in the opening frame before the Lady Raiders unleashed a game-altering 17-0 run that carried into the second quarter to put UTEP down by 21 (31-10). The Miners battled back to get within 14 at the half (41-27) and then within seven (65-58) in the fourth quarter, but MT was able to hold off the rally. UTEP finished at 37.1 percent from the floor, including 21.1 percent (4-19) on 3-point tosses. An off night (10-20, 50 percent) at the charity stripe and 24 turnovers also affected the outcome. Avery Crouse buoyed Gill with nine points and a career-best nine boards. Katarina Zec pitched in eight points and a career-high tying nine rebounds. Tia Bradshaw led the effort from the reserves with a career-high tying eight points to go along with a personal-best five caroms. The Miners kept MT to 39.7 percent (23-58), including 28.6 percent (6-21) from 3-point range. MT compensated for that by going 24-29 (82.8 percent) at the free-throw line. UTEP won the boards (49-33), but it wasn’t enough to make up for other discrepancies. 

AT UTEP 67, NORTH TEXAS 63 1/25/20

From the 6-minute mark in the first quarter until 11 seconds were left in the fourth, North Texas had a firm grip on the lead over UTEP, but the Miners rallied in the final moments to steal a 67-63 victory from the Mean Green on Jan. 25 at the Don Haskins Center. Ninety seconds into Saturday’s game, UTEP had a 4-3 lead over North Texas. From that point until 11 seconds remaining in the game, the Miners trailed the Mean Green until Ariona Gill’s tip-in gave UTEP a 65-63 advantage and its first lead since early in the first quarter. Gill also sunk the And-1 to give the Miners a 66-63 lead with 11 seconds left in the game. Katarina Zec, who went off for 18 points in the second half after being silenced in the first, also added a free throw with three seconds remaining to clinch the 67-63 victory for UTEP. The Miners shot just 14 percent (2-14) in the opening frame, but never shot below 40 percent the rest of the way, finishing the game 23-of-47 from the field in the final three quarters. North Texas led UTEP for more than 30 minutes in the game, including a 27-22 lead for the Mean Green at the halfway point, but the Miners fought back to outscore UNT 45-36 in the final two frames. Defensively, UTEP entered the game ranked first in C-USA in turnovers forced and lived up to that ranking after forcing 23 Mean Green turnovers, including 15 in the first half.

 RICE 69, AT UTEP 61 1/23/20

Ariana Taylor, Avery Crouse and Ariona Gill all tallied 11 points, but UTEP fell to league-leading Rice, 69-61, at the Don Haskins Center on Jan. 23. It is the first C-USA setback at home for the Miners, who battled but ultimately saw the Owls post their 26th straight win against Conference USA competition. Gill added a team-high eight rebounds to nearly finish with a double-double despite playing only 16 minutes due to being plagued with fouls. Katia Gallegos stuffed the stat sheet with five points, seven rebounds and five assists. Katarina Zec pitched in nine points and five rebounds. The Miners forced 21 turnovers and won the boards, 42-39, but it wasn’t enough to compensate for finishing at 33.3 percent (23-69) from the floor. Rice’s 13 blocked shots, including nine alone from 6-9 Nancy Mulkey, impacted UTEP’s shooting percentage. Another factor was UTEP finishing 10-18 at the charity stripe (55.6 percent) compared to the Owls going 20-28 (71.4 percent) at the line. It was a game of runs, with UTEP using a 7-0 push early in the fourth quarter to get within four (52-48). Rice countered with nine straight points, and the Miners were unable to get closer than six the rest of the contest. 

AT UTEP 94, UTSA 54, 1/18/20

UTEP flexed its muscle at both ends of the court by drilling UTSA, 94-54, at home on Jan. 18. The 40-point win is the third biggest in a conference game in program history. The Miners came out firing, outpacing the Roadrunners by 27 (55-28) at the half. It marked the largest halftime lead in a league contest at the school. The 55 points over the first 20 minutes tied as the second most in first-half action in program annals. Aiding in the romp was a 32-point second quarter, which marked the most in a frame against a league foe in school history. Katarina Zec scored 15 points, Michelle Pruitt posted her first career double-double (12 points, career-high 11 rebounds) and Katia Gallegos dished out a career-best 10 assists to help lead the onslaught. Ariona Gill (11 points) also reached double figures in scoring for the Miners. For the second time in two weeks, the Miners scored 90+ points without having an individual player tally more than 15 points. UTEP also did so in the 96-65 romp of Florida Atlantic (1/4/20). Prior to this season, the feat had never been achieved at the school. UTEP shot 50.7 percent (37-73) from the floor and piled up its most assists (25) against a DI opponent in six years. Gallegos (10) and Tia Bradshaw (four) both set career highs for helpers. The Miners also got 48 points from their bench to nearly match UTSA’s overall output. At the other end of the court the Orange and Blue held the Roadrunners to 32.3 percent (21-65) shooting, in addition to forcing 21 turnovers that were converted into 24 points.  UTEP crushed UTSA on the boards (53-34), while also having a huge advantage for points in the paint (53-32). All 12 Miners who played scored at least three points. 

AT LA TECH 87, UTEP 80, 1/11/20

UTEP shot 47.9 percent (23-48) from the floor and nailed a season-high 10 triples, but it sustained its first Conference USA loss of the year in an 87-80 setback at LA Tech on Jan. 11. The Miners were hurt by committing 28 turnovers and allowing the Lady Techsters to drill 53.8 percent (28-52) from the floor, including 50.0 percent (11-22) from 3-point range. Freshman Katia Gallegos flirted with a double-double (15 points, seven assists) to pace a trio of players in double figures. Katarina Zec (13 points) and Ariana Taylor (11 points) buoyed her, while Sabine Lipe (nine points, three assists) and Jade Rochelle (eight points, two assists) led the efforts off the pine. It was a seesaw battle with 11 ties and 14 lead changes. The game was knotted at 71 with 9:34 to play before LA Tech took control with an 8-0 surge. The Miners battled back, trimming the margin to three (81-78) after a Zec free throw with 3:19 remaining. That was as close as they would get, with the Lady Techsters staving off every remaining push from the Orange and Blue to improve to 8-2 on the year at home. 

UTEP 89, AT SOUTHERN MISS 72, 1/9/20

Fueled by the highest scoring first half on the road in program history, UTEP surged to an 89-72 win at Southern Miss on Jan. 9. The Miners’ 89 points tie as the most in league road contest in school history. They also did so in an 89-74 win at UCF on Feb. 24, 2008. UTEP piled up 51 points to lead the Lady Eagles by 20 at the break on the way to their third victory in as many league games. It marked just the second home loss of the campaign for USM, which slipped to 8-2 inside Reed Green Coliseum this year. Freshman Katia Gallegos set career highs in scoring (23) and assists (eight) to lead the way. She was joined in double figures by fellow starters Katarina Zec (21 points), Ariana Taylor (14 points) and Ariona Gill (13 points). Avery Crouse pitched in six points, five rebounds and four assists. All five starters logged at least 30 minutes of action. UTEP drilled 52.5 percent (32-61) from the floor, the fourth-highest percentage in a road conference contest in program annals. Furthermore, the Miners have scored at least 89 points in consecutive league games for the first time in program history. They piled up 96 points in the home win against Florida Atlantic (1/4/20) before erupting for 89 points against USM on Jan. 9. The Orange and Blue forced 16 turnovers that were converted into 28 points. UTEP also controlled the boards (39-28), with Taylor’s career-high nine rebounds setting the tone in the area.

AT UTEP 96, FLORIDA ATLANTIC 65, 1/4/20

UTEP bolted out to the largest halftime lead in a conference game in program history on the way to drilling Florida Atlantic, 96-65, at the Don Haskins Center on Jan. 4. The Miners led by 22 (47-25) at the break and never let the Owls back into the game as they improved to 2-0 in league play for the first time since 2016. Furthermore, UTEP has won consecutive league contests by at least 30 points for the first occasion in program history. The Miners blasted FIU, 64-34, on Jan. 2, and followed that up with the 31-point vanquishing of the Owls. Freshman Katia Gallegos posted her first career double-double (11 points, career-high 11 rebounds) while also dishing out a game-best six assists to set the tone for the home side. Junior DeJaNae Roebuck (career-high 14 points) provided a spark off the bench while senior Ariona Gill nearly recorded a double-double after finishing with 14 points and nine boards. All 12 players who dressed scored in the game. The 96 points are the most by the Miners under head coach Kevin Baker and rate as the fourth-highest total in a conference game in program annals. UTEP scored at least 22 points in each quarter and shot better than 47 percent in all four frames as well. 

RARE OFFENSIVE FEAT

For the first time since the 1982-83 season (prior records incomplete), the Miners scored at least 90 points in a contest without having an individual player tally at least 15 points. UTEP exploded for 96 points in the win against Florida Atlantic (1/4/20), with DeJaNae Roebuck and Ariona Gill sharing the team lead with 14 points each.

AT UTEP 64, FIU 34, 1/2/20

UTEP vaulted out to a 16-point cushion (26-10) after the first quarter and never looked back on the way to blasting FIU, 64-34, in the Conference USA opener for both schools at the Don Haskins Center on Jan. 2. The Miners allowed the fewest points in a conference game in program history on the way to toppling the Panthers by 30. Furthermore UTEP moved to 3-0 in league lidlifters under head coach Kevin Baker. The Orange and Blue kept FIU to 24.5 percent (12-49), including a combined 4-29 in a dominating second half. UTEP also controlled the boards (47-36), thanks in part to Ariona Gill’s double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds). Katarina Zec posted a game-high 16 points on 6-9 shooting, including 3-6 from distance. Ariana Taylor (nine points), Michelle Pruitt (eight points) and Katia Gallegos (seven points, five assists) also got after it. But the night belonged to the defense, with FIU being held to 13 total points in the second half. UTEP’s pressure defense gave the visitors fits as they committed 23 turnovers. UTEP also dominated in the paint, outscoring the Panthers, 30-12.

GETTING IT DONE IN LEAGUE OPENERS

UTEP bested FIU, 64-34, on Jan. 2 to move to 12-3 in Conference USA openers since joining the league (2005-06), including a perfect 3-0 under Kevin Baker in the situation. Overall UTEP now stands 17-22 all time in conference lid lifters. 

TULSA 58, AT UTEP 51, 12/29/19

UTEP forced 19 turnovers and held Tulsa to 31.6 percent (18-57) from the floor but it had some struggles of its own in a 58-51 home setback to Tulsa at the Don Haskins Center on Dec. 29. The Miners  committed 16 of their 22 turnovers in the first half and finished 13-25 at the charity stripe. UTEP connected on 34.0 percent (18-53) from the floor, which was hindered by going 2-11 (18.2 percent) in the final frame. Yet in spite of those challenges, the Orange and Blue went toe-to-toe with former WAC and Conference USA foe Tulsa. There were seven ties and 11 lead changes, and UTEP led by three (46-43) with seven minutes to go. It wasn’t to be, though, with the Golden Hurricane peeling off an 8-0 run over the next five minutes. The Miners stopped the surge with a pair of Katia Gallegos free throws, but couldn’t get any closer than three points down the stretch. Katarina Zec tallied 13 points to pace the squad while Gallegos netted 10 points and a game-high five assists. Ariona Gill flirted with a double-double (nine points, eight rebounds) while also tallying a trio of steals. Ariana Taylor put up seven points in her first start of the season.

AT SMU 60, UTEP 54, 12/19/19

Katarina Zec (12 points) and Ariana Taylor (season-high 10 points) both reached double figures in scoring while Ariona Gill (eight points, 11 rebounds) flirted with a double-double in UTEP’s hard-fought 60-56 setback at SMU on Dec. 19. The Miners (7-3) forced 18 turnovers and held the Mustangs (5-4) to 39.0 percent (23-59) from the floor. UTEP shot a similar percentage, but couldn’t compensate for a discrepancy on free throws. SMU finished 12-22 at the charity stripe, including 10-14 in the final frame. UTEP was 3-6 at the line, and did not attempt a free throw during the second half despite holding a 32-24 advantage for points in the paint. Another factor was rebounds, with the Mustangs controlling the glass by a count of 43-33. UTEP recorded 17 assists on 24 field goals, with Gill dishing out a career-high five helpers. She also set a career best with five steals.

#20/19 ARIZONA 54, AT UTEP 43, 12/7/19

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 setback at the Don Haskins Center on Dec. 7. The Miners limited the Wildcats to 38.0 percent shooting (19-50), including just 7.1 percent (1-14) from beyond-the-arc. Arizona entered the contest averaging 78 points and shooting 49 percent from the floor. UTEP also kept All-American Aari McDonald to 13 points on 4-14 shooting, eight below her 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 day. But the defense, which kept Arizona to 1-9 in the final quarter, allowed the home side to be down by just nine with three minutes to play. UTEP could get no closer, with the Wildcats hitting enough free throws down stretch to hold on.

AT UTEP 70, WEBER STATE 51, 12/5/19

Senior Jade Rochelle provided a huge spark off the bench by setting career highs in points (15) and steals (six) to help the UTEP women’s basketball team topple Weber State, 70-51, at the Don Haskins Center on Dec. 5. Katarina Zec (15 points) and Katia Gallegos (12 points) also reached double figures in the Miners’ (7-1) fourth consecutive win. The Wildcats (1-5) put up quite a fight, but UTEP had enough in the tank to continue its best start to a year during the Kevin Baker era. UTEP won the boards (42-35), thanks primarily to Ariona Gill’s career-high 14 rebounds. Gill added seven points to flirt with the double-double. But the night was stolen by Rochelle, who was electric in her 21 minutes off the pine. She connected on 6-10 from the floor, in addition to going 3-3 at the free throw line. Her presence was equally felt on the defensive end where she came up one steal shy of cracking UTEP’s top-10 single-game list. Another factor was the Miners’ defense forcing 31 turnovers, the most by a UTEP opponent in four years. WSU was held to 35.6 percent (16-45) from the floor, including 23.1 percent (3-13) from 3-point range. UTEP connected on 34.4 percent from the floor but made up for it by getting to the free throw line 39 times (24 makes). The Miners had 12 assists on their 21 field goals made, with freshman Katia Gallegos tallying a game-high five.

AT UTEP 71, GEORGIA STATE 68, 11/30/19

Freshmen Arina Khlopkova (career-best 20 points) Avery Crouse (career-best 13 points) and Katia Gallegos (11 points, career-high eight rebounds) all had big nights to help lead the UTEP women’s basketball team to a 71-68 victory against Georgia State in its final game of the Eighth-Annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 30, 2019. The Miners (6-1) forced 20 turnovers, including Khlopkova drawing a charge late in the game, to help topple the upset-minded Panthers. There were eight ties and nine lead changes in a back-and-forth battle. It was tied at 68 with 1:42 to play when Gallegos split through traffic for the go-ahead lay-up. Georgia State missed a pair of shots to either tie or retake the lead late, and Khlopkova put the finishing touches on the win with a free throw with seven seconds left. UTEP overcame an off shooting night (37.1 percent) by taking care of business at the charity stripe (19-24, 79.2 percent) and turning up the pressure to force the aforementioned 20 turnovers. Sabine Lipe came off the bench to chip in four points, four rebounds and four assists while Ariana Taylor netted six points to go along with two boards. UTEP took good care of the ball, committing only 11 turnovers.

FRESHMEN POWER 

Freshmen Arina Khlopkova (career-best 20 points) Avery Crouse (career-best 13 points) and Katia Gallegos (11 points) all hit double digits in scoring in UTEP’s win against Georgia State on Nov. 30. It marked the first time that three Miner freshmen scored at least 10 points in the same game against a Division I opponent since 2004-05 at Boise State (3/3/05).  In that game the effort was courtesy of Dana Penno (14 points), Izabela Piekarska (14 points), and Kasia Krezel (10 points). 

AT UTEP 76, WESTERN MICHIGAN 46, 11/29/19

The UTEP women’s basketball team surged out to a 23-point lead at the half (38-15) en route to knocking off Western Michigan, 76-46, at the Eighth-Annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic Friday afternoon.  The Miners (5-1) shot 49.2 percent (30-61) from the floor and won the boards (47-32) to handle the Broncos (2-3). UTEP also got after it on defense by holding WMU to 28.1 percent (16-64) and forcing 18 turnovers to keep them 28 points below their scoring average (74.0) entering the game.  Arina Khlopkova (career-high 14 points), Katarina Zec (12 points) and Michelle Pruitt (10 points) all hit double figures in scoring to pace UTEP. Tia Bradshaw (career-best eight points) also had a career scoring day. Ariona Gill (10 rebounds) led the charge on the glass while Zec secured a season-high eight boards. UTEP shared the ball well, with 20 assists on 30 field goals, with Katia Gallegos (five) and Avery Crouse (career-best four) leading the way in the department.

AT UTEP 65, NM STATE 45, 11/23/19

Senior Ariona Gill posted a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds), and UTEP defended with furor in a 65-45 vanquishing of I-10 rival NM State to complete the season sweep of the Aggies at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 23. The Miners led wire-to-wire in the 20-point victory against the Aggies. UTEP held NM State to 33.9 percent (21-62) from the floor, including a paltry 6.7 percent (1-15) from 3-point range. The Miners also forced 19 turnovers, which led to 19 points, and crushed the Aggies on the boards, 51-30. Freshman Katia Gallegos turned in an outstanding all-around effort. She scored 10 points while setting career highs in rebounds (seven), assists (six) and steals (four) in 29 minutes of action. Senior Katarina Zec also hit double digits (11 points) in scoring for the fifth time in as many games on the year while freshman Avery Crouse netted eight points. UTEP shot 41.5 percent (27-65) from the floor, including 52.9 percent (9-17) during a second quarter where it outscored the visitors, 20-10. But the Miners’ defense stole the show. UTEP set season bests for fewest points allowed (45) and 3-point percentage defense (6.7 percent). The Aggies had 25 points through three quarters before putting up 20 points in the final frame, when the outcome was already decided. 

NEW MEXICO 93, AT UTEP 78, 11/19/19

UTEP put up 78 points while shooting 49 percent from the floor, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with high-octane New Mexico in a 93-78 setback at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 19. Nearly 1,500 fans, most of them young students, made for an entertaining atmosphere on the Miners’ “Education Day” game, but the Lobos emerged victorious in a battle of unbeatens. Katarina Zec (16 points), Tatyana Modawar (career-high 12 points) and Katia Gallegos (10 points) all hit double figures in scoring for UTEP. Ariona Gill flirted with a double-double (eight points, 10 rebounds) while Avery Crouse netted nine and Ariana Taylor chipped in seven points. UNM relied on a barrage of 3-pointers (12-29), an extremely good day at the line (17-19) and winning the boards (41-30) to outlast the Miners. The Lobos had a 24-14 margin on second-chance points while also holding advantages for points in the paint (38-28) and fastbreak points (34-12). UTEP lost for just the second time (14-2) of the Kevin Baker era when scoring at least 70 points.

AT UTEP 92, ALCORN STATE 47, 11/16/19

UTEP raced out to an 18-point lead (28-10) after the first quarter and never looked back in a 92-47 win against Alcorn State at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 16. Katarina Zec (17 points) led a quartet of Miners (3-0) in double figures for scoring in the wire-to-wire victory against the Lady Braves (0-4). Ariona Gill (14 points, game-high seven rebounds), Michelle Pruitt (13 points) and freshman Avery Crouse (career-high 10 points) buoyed fellow starter Zec. The bench did its part too by piling up 34 points, with Ariana Taylor (nine points) setting the tone for the reserves. DejaNae Roebuck (career-high tying seven points) nearly matched Taylor. UTEP registered 23 assists on 34 field goals, won the boards (44-26) and forced 28 turnovers that were converted into 27 points. The Miners shot 54.8 percent (34-62) from the floor, including 39.1 percent (9-23) from distance. Alcorn State was held to 32.0 percent (16-50) shooting. It marked the third 90+ point scoring contest under head coach Kevin Baker, who has his squad off to a 3-0 start for the second time in three seasons.  

UTEP 63, AT NM STATE 57, 11/13/19

Senior Katarina Zec scored 17 points, including a go-ahead three pointer with two minutes to play in the game, to help lift UTEP to a 63-57 win at I-10 rival NM State on Nov. 9. The effort secured the Miners’ third straight 2-0 start under head coach Kevin Baker. Furthermore, they picked up their first road win against the Aggies since 2015-16. Junior transfer Michelle Pruitt (14 points) and freshman Katia Gallegos (13 points) joined Zec in double figures for scoring, while senior Ariona Gill pitched in seven points to go along with a team-best eight rebounds. Ariana Taylor came off the bench to score nine points, in addition to setting up Zec’s clutch trey. It was a back-and-forth game with 12 ties and 19 lead changes, with the final change coming down the stretch. NM State led by two (57-55) with 3:24 to play, but UTEP closed the game on a 6-0 push to stay perfect on the young season. Zec provided the go-ahead score with a knockdown triple off a cross-court pass by Taylor. 

AT UTEP 63, UC RIVERSIDE 60, 11/9/19

UTEP bolted out to a 19-point lead (33-14) at the half on the way to defeating UC Riverside, 63-50, at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 9. The Miners led wire-to-wire against the Highlanders, who were playing for the third time in five days to start the season. UTEP took advantage of that fact, turning up the heat defensively with a pressing defense that forced 28 turnovers. Those giveaways led to 25 points. Katarina Zec tallied 18 points to lead a balanced offensive attack that featured six different players with at least six points. Freshman Katia Gallegos debuted with nine points, five assists, two steals and no turnovers in a squad-high 34 minutes of playing time. Junior transfer Michelle Pruitt (eight points, 10 rebounds) flirted with a double-double while fellow classmate and transfer DejaNae Roebuck came off the bench to score seven points. UTEP got to the free throw line 30 times and took 60 shots to the Highlanders’ 41 attempts. The discrepancy came from UCR’s 28 turnovers compared to only 15 by the Orange and Blue. 

STIFLING DEFENSE

UTEP locked down on UCR (11/9) from the onset, limiting the Highlanders to four points in the first quarter. It tied as the third-lowest points allowed in a frame by the Miners. Additionally, the 50 points allowed were the fewest in a season opener since 2006-07.

EXHIBITION REWIND

UTEP prepped for the 2019-20 season by posting a pair of victories against Division II opponents in exhibition contests. The Miners downed Eastern New Mexico, 84-64, (Oct. 26), while also besting St. Mary’s (TX) (Nov. 2), 59-47. Katarina Zec averaged 20.5 points per game to lead the unit, with transfer Michelle Pruitt (10.5 ppg) also checking in for double figures. UTEP had a +9.0 rebounding margin (41.5-32.5) during the contests. The Miners also forced 24.0 turnovers per game, which made up for the opposition hitting 41.2 percent (42-102) from the floor in the two contests. 

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