UTEP women’s basketball announces 2020-21 schedule

UTEP

EL PASO, Texas – With just over one week until the start of the 2020-21 season, UTEP Women’s Basketball has released its complete schedule, the program announced on Tuesday.

The Miners will play a total of 24 regular-season games, including 13 home contests, beginning with the season-opener versus NM State on Wednesday, Nov. 25 at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso. Last season, UTEP swept the season series over the Aggies by scores of 63-57 and 65-45.

“Putting together a women’s basketball schedule has been very challenging during a pandemic,” fourth-year head coach Kevin Baker said. “Thanks to our supportive UTEP administration and our leadership in the Conference USA offices, we now are in position to play a 24-game schedule. We have worked together to put a safe and competitive season on the books. Our non-conference slate has four home games and two road games. We have many games in a short period of time, which our players and fans will enjoy.

“We will then move on to an 18-game Conference USA campaign. Our conference will be very evenly matched this year and each game should be exciting. Our team has been focused, determined, and working very hard, so now it is time to just play ball!”

The Miners will be home for four of their six non-conference games, including a pair of home games versus NM State (11/25 and 12/3) and contests against Incarnate Word (11/28) and Sam Houston State (12/5). UTEP’s non-conference road games will be at Utah State (12/13) and Northern Arizona (12/17).

Conference USA will transition to an 18-game regular season conference schedule for the 2020-21 season that keeps student-athlete health and safety at the forefront. Schools will play two games per visit at four select C-USA campuses, and will host four teams for a two-game series. Teams will also have a home-and-home opportunity with a designated rival opponent.

The new model announced by the league last week will have teams play back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, instead of Thursday and Saturday as originally decided. C-USA also implemented a requirement of at least 21 hours in between tipoffs to provide appropriate rest periods. In addition to reducing the amount of travel, moving to the Friday-Saturday format will allow teams to play and efficiently complete their testing protocol each week.

Regular season conference play for both men’s and women’s basketball will begin on January 1 and the final week of the regular season may be utilized to reschedule any postponed games.

UTEP will open league play by hosting Southern Miss on Jan 1-2 before traveling to take on the 2019-20 regular-season champions in the Rice Owls on Jan. 8-9 in Houston. The Miners won a pair of games against Southern Miss last season, while Rice took both games over UTEP during the 2019-20 campaign.

The Miners will play hosts to North Texas on Jan. 15-16 in El Paso and then hit the road the following week to face off at Louisiana Tech in road play on Jan. 22-23. UTEP split the series with the Mean Green last year, winning the first contest by a score of 67-63 in El Paso before falling 68-58 in Denton to close out the 2019-20 regular season. The Miners fell to Louisiana Tech last season, 87-80, in a close contest in Ruston.

UTEP will then battle UTSA in a home-and-home series beginning Jan. 28 in El Paso before making the return trip to San Antonio two days later on Jan. 30 to close out the first month of 2021. The Miners swept the two-game season series over the Roadrunners last season.

UTEP returns home on Feb. 5-6 to host the UAB Blazers on back-to-back days. The Miners will then board a plane for the east coast to take on FIU on Feb. 12-13 in Miami. Florida Atlantic will head to El Paso for the following week as UTEP wraps up its home slate on Feb. 19-20 versus the Owls. Last season, the Miners claimed a pair of victories over FIU and Florida Atlantic, with both wins coming in El Paso to open the conference slate.

The 2020-21 regular season will wrap up on Feb. 26-27 as the Miners make another long trip to take on Charlotte on the road. A season ago, UTEP defeated the 49ers, 82-76, in El Paso.

UTEP was recently voted to finish sixth in the 2020-21 Conference USA Preseason Poll, while sophomore guard Katia Gallegos was also selected to the 2020-21 C-USA Preseason Team, making her the first Miner to appear on the list since Jenzel Nash and Sparkle Taylor in 2016-17. This is also the highest preseason slot UTEP has received since the 2016-17 season. Middle Tennessee is the favorite to win the league this year, while Rice and Old Dominion also received first-place votes.

Last season, the Miners improved by seven wins to a 16-14 record (8-10, C-USA) in head coach Kevin Baker’s third year at the helm of the program. The Miner offense averaged 72.6 points per game, good for third-best in the conference a season ago.

UTEP returns nine players from the 2019-20 roster, including Gallegos, Avery Crouse, Ariana Taylor, Michelle Pruitt, Sabine Lipe, Arina Khlopkova, DeJaNae Roebuck, Tia Bradshaw and Tatyana Modawar. The five newcomers on the 2020-21 squad include Destiny Thurman, Isis Lopes, Dagne Apsite, Elina Arike and Brenda Fontana.

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