LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Senior Katarina Zec scored 17 points, including a go-ahead three pointer with two minutes to play in the game, to help lift the UTEP women’s basketball team to a 63-57 win at I-10 rival NM State Wednesday evening.
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 (1-2) 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.
NM State was paced by Aaliyah Prince (22 points).
“It just feels really good to have a competitive team that fights for every possession,” Baker said. “This was a very difficult game on the road against a really good team. We had a lot of young kids out there battling their hearts out and got some strong senior leadership down the stretch too. This is a big win for our program because we’re so young and are learning.”
The two sides traded scores over the first several minutes, with NM State holding a 12-11 lead at the 4:16 mark of the opening quarter. UTEP scored five straight to go up, 16-12, including back-to-back baskets from Taylor. The Aggies had an answer, wrapping an 11-0 run around the quarter break to go out by seven (23-16) with 8:11 remaining in the opening half.
It remained a seven-point differential (27-20) at the 6:20 before the Orange and Blue reeled off eight consecutive points to regain the advantage at 28-27 with 3:36 left in the stanza. It was back-and-forth over the final few minutes, allowing UTEP to head into the locker room up by one (33-32).
The Miners ripped off seven straight points to start the third quarter, vaulting them to an eight-point cushion (40-32) at the 7:24 mark. NM State slowly but surely chipped away at the margin, and it crept within one (47-46) through three quarters of play.
It was a tightly-contested affair down the stretch, with neither team leading by more than three points before UTEP’s game-closing 6-0 surge.
The Miners will look to move to 3-0 on the year when they play host to Alcorn State at 1 p.m. Saturday. New Mexico State will host another big rivalry clash against New Mexico on Sunday at 2 p.m.