Junior Zuzanna Puc produced a double-double (23 points, career-high 14 boards) while redshirt-junior Neidy Ocuane (career-high 14 points) and junior Katarina Zec (12 points) also got going on offense but short-handed UTEP was clipped by Marshall, 63-60, inside the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening.
The Miners (4-17, 1-7 C-USA), who dressed seven players, led for 28 minutes. They were up by 11 (45-34) at the break after matching their highest scoring half of the season. To their credit the Thundering Herd (12-9, 6-2 C-USA) struck back, on the way to leading by seven (57-50) with six minutes to go. UTEP climbed back to within one (61-60), but Zec’s jumper from inside the free-throw line in the waning seconds spun out. After a foul, Marshall’s Khadaijia Brooks connected on both free throws. UTEP called timeout to advance the ball, but Jordan Alexander’s desperation 3-pointer to tie it came up short.
UTEP continued to be plagued by injuries, suiting up only seven players. Ariona Gill logged 10 minutes in her first action after missing eight straight games to an injury, pitching in two points and three helpers. Every other Miner played at least 20 minutes, with Puc (career-high 39 minutes), Zec (38 minutes) and Ocuane (career-high tying 37 minutes) securing the most time.
“I’m extraordinarily proud of our team,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “They’ve had every bit of adversity that you can have, but they keep working hard and coming back to the gym with a good attitude. They keep giving themselves chances like we did tonight.”
The Miners moved the ball effectively, recording 17 assists on their 22 made field goals. They also took care of it well, turning it over just nine times. UTEP held the Thundering Herd to 37.7 percent from the floor, including 26.7 percent (8-30) from distance. The Miners shot extremely well in the first half, connecting on 51.5 percent (17-33). They cooled off after the break, going 5-30 (16.7 percent) during the second half.
UTEP will wrap up its two-game homestand when it plays host to WKU at 1 p.m. MT Saturday. There will be a special presentation at halftime, with the first team in program history (1974-75) being recognized. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids and may be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234.