The UTEP women’s basketball team (4-18, 1-8 C-USA) will venture to the Eastern Time Zone for the second time in three weeks when it plays at Florida Atlantic (4-18, 1-8 C-USA) at 5 p.m. MT/7 p.m. ET Thursday. It will be the first of two match-ups on the week in the “Sunshine State” for the Miners, with the trip to conclude at FIU at 12 p.m. MT/2 p.m. ET Saturday. There’s plenty at stake for all parties involved with regards to qualifying for the 2019 C-USA Championships (March 13-17). The top-12 (of 14) teams will secure a spot for the league’s pinnacle event. Entering this week the Miners (1-8 C-USA), FAU (1-8 C-USA) and UTSA (1-8 C-USA) are tied for 11th while FIU (0-9 C-USA) is one game back in 14th place. The next closest teams in the standings all have four league wins. It is the lone meeting on the year for UTEP with both Florida Atlantic and FIU, making the contests even more important. The Miners have dropped eight straight games, including back-to-back three-point heartbreakers at home (L, 60-63, Marshall, 1/31/19 and L, 61-64, WKU, 2/2/19). It is the first time in program history that UTEP has lost back-to-back league home contests (without a road game in-between) by three points or less. FAU, meanwhile, has lost consecutive contests, including a 67-45 setback last time out to Southern Miss on Feb. 2. UTEP is 1-8 on the road (1-4 C-USA) while the Owls are 3-10 at home (1-4 C-USA). Thursday’s game will be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso with Brandon Cohn on the call. There will also be a live stream on CUSAtv.com (subscription based).
UTEP has been hit hard by injuries, with the Miners having dressed seven players in three straight contests. Ariona Gill, who had missed eight straight games, has come off the bench in back-to-back contests but Sabine Lipe (six straight), Jordan Jenkins (three straight) and Alexa Hoy (three straight) continue to be sidelined.
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER
The Miners’ first nine opponents of Conference USA action are a combined 125-71 on the year (54-29 in league play), but at least on paper the remainder of UTEP’s league schedule is a bit more manageable. Those seven opponents are a combined 67-87 (21-44 C-USA), with only UAB (6-3) currently boasting a winning record in C-USA action.
HE SAID IT (COACH BAKER ON FLORIDA ATLANTIC)
“On Thursday we will play a very young Florida Atlantic basketball team. They are always a tough team to play on their home court, so we will need to play well. Right now, our team is playing well and we hope that continues as we finish out conference play.”
THE SERIES (OVERALL: UTEP LEADS, 4-3; IN BOCA RATON: TIED, 2-2)
UTEP leads the series, 4-3, aided by winning four of the past five match-ups. The ledger is knotted, 2-2, when playing in Boca Raton, with the Owls successfully defending their homecourt, 72-66, last year on Jan. 7, 2018. FAU claimed the first two meetings in the series (68-63, in El Paso on Feb. 5, 2015 and 98-62 in Boca Raton on March 5, 2014) before the Miners peeled off four straight victories.
GET TO KNOW FAU (4-18, 1-8 C-USA; 3-10 HOME; 1-8 AWAY; 0-0 NEUTRAL)
Florida Atlantic got off to a 2-3 start to the season but it has gone 2-15 since, including 1-8 in C-USA play. The Owls lost 11 in a row at one point before besting FIU, 77-55, on Jan. 26. They have dropped their past two contests, including most recently falling, 67-45, at Southern Miss on Feb. 2. FAU is 3-10 at home on the year (1-4 C-USA). The Owls are in the upper echelon of C-USA and in the top-100 nationally for 3-pointers attempted (474, fifth/71st) and free throw attempts (396, eighth/271st). They have had some struggles in other areas, rating last in the league for assist-to-turnover ratio (0.53), assists per game (10.8), field-goal percentage (36.8), rebound margin (-4.6), scoring margin (-14.8), turnover margin (-5.45) and most turnovers per game (20.3). Individually Ra’Kyra Gabriel is fifth in C-USA and 224th in the NCAA for blocked shots per game (1.0). Juliette Gauthier (10.1 ppg) is the top scorer for the squad, followed by Myka Matthews (9.4 ppg) and Amber Gatson (8.0 ppg). No one else on the squad is producing more than 6.0 ppg. Abby Voss (6.2 rpg) sets the tone in rebounding, with Gauthier (5.8 rpg) and Gabriel (5.5 rpg) also getting involved. Last year FAU finished 13-15 (7-9 C-USA) but returned only two starters and five players. The Owls feature eight freshmen on the squad. Notable FAU alumni include Don Brewer (drummer and founding member of the band Grand Funk Railroad), Fern “Peachy” Kellymeyer (1999 Tennis Hall of Fame Inductee) and Carrot Top (Prop Comedian with Vegas Show).
LAST MEETING WITH FAU (AT UTEP 75, FLORIDA ATLANTIC 70, 1/18/18)
Najala Howell (22 points, 11 rebounds) and Tamara Seda (20 points, 10 rebounds) both posted double-doubles, and UTEP rallied from 15 down to knock off Florida Atlantic, 75-70, at the Don Haskins Center on Jan. 18, 2018. The Owls made them work for it by nailing 10 triples, including eight in the first half, to lead, 45-30, late in the first half. The deficit was 11 midway through the third quarter before the Miners wrapped a 15-0 run around the quarter break to secure their first lead since the opening minutes of action. It was back-and-forth down the stretch with four lead changes in the final five minutes, including UTEP scoring the final six points of the contest after FAU led 70-69 with 56 seconds left. Katarina Zec joined Howell and Seda in double figures with 13 points and six boards while Jordan Jenkins, Jordan Alexander and Zuzanna Puc each chipped in six points. Roeshonda Patterson made an impact with a career-high seven rebounds and a pair of steals in 14 minutes off the bench. The Miners won the boards, 46-38, while also holding an advantage for points in the paint at 34-22. UTEP connected on 43.5 percent (27-63) while also taking care of business at the charity stripe by going 19-24 (79.2 percent). FAU was held to 35.8 percent (24-67), including 30.3 percent (10-33) from beyond-the-arc. Malia Kency tallied 21 points to lead a quartet of Owls in double figures.
GOING BACK IN TIME (WKU 64, AT UTEP 61, 2/3/19)
Zuzanna Puc produced her second straight double-double (17 points, 13 rebounds) and Katarina Zec tallied a season-high 19 points but visiting WKU slipped past UTEP, 64-61, at the Don Haskins Center on Feb. 2. Raneem Elgedawy (27 points, 10 rebounds) and Dee Givens (26 points) combined for 53 of the Lady Toppers’ 64 points in the game, which helped them offset the Miners shooting 52.5 percent from the floor (21-40) and also winning the boards (32-26). Another factor was UTEP’s 23 turnovers, which led to 25 points by the visitors. It was a wild game with big runs from both sides, in addition to seven ties and eight lead changes. WKU started the contest on a 12-2 run but UTEP punched back with a 27-5 run around the quarter break to take control. The Miners led by six (36-30) at the half and were still up five with three minutes remaining. WKU rallied to get within two (59-57) but Alexis Brewer’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 44 seconds left spun out. Zec got the board only to pressured and have Givens come away with the steal. Givens was fouled and she hit the first free throw to make it 59-58. She missed the second but somehow got her own rebound before being fouled again. This time she hit both, putting the visitors ahead (60-59) with 36 seconds to play. UTEP didn’t flinch, getting a basket on a driving lay-up from Ariona Gill with 15 seconds left to regain the lead (61-60). The visitors called timeout to advance the ball, and Elgedawy got loose inside for the jumper to put her side back up by one (62-61) with 10 seconds left. The Miners were out of timeouts and unfortunately a pass from Ariana Taylor sailed out of bounds with five seconds remaining. UTEP fouled Givens, who made both free throws. The Miners heaved it deep and connected with Jade Rochelle, but her desperation 3-pointer to tie it from the top of the arch fell short as WKU escaped.
TRACKING THE OPPOSITION
UTEP’s 18 setbacks have come against teams that are a combined 240-138 (63.5 percent) on the season. Sixteen of those squads currently have winning records, with three of them at the top of their respective league standings. Overall the Miners’ opponents have a combined record of 268-196 (57.8 percent).
SOME CLOSE CALLS
UTEP has eight losses on the season by seven points or less, with a pair of one-point setbacks, one by two points, two by three points, one by four points, one by five points and one by seven points. The Miners have held a lead in 11 of the defeats, including double-digit advantages against WKU (2/2/19), Marshall (1/31/19), at New Mexico (12/5/18) and Arkansas State (12/1/18)
UTEP has been a better team across the board in second-half action this season as the charts below shows. Bold font indicate statistical advantages.
UTEP Averages By Half
PTS FG% 3FG% FT% RB AST TO
UTEP (1st half) 26.5 38.1 30.6 65.0 16.9 6.3 9.4
UTEP (2nd half) 31.2 38.8 31.1 71.6 19.1 7.2 7.0
Opponent Averages By Half
PTS FG% 3FG% FT% RB AST TO
OPP. (1st half) 33.9 43.3 35.2 75.7 16.9 7.8 6.8
OPP. (2nd half) 33.3 40.3 30.6 69.1 17.6 7.1 4.9
INDIVIDUAL QUICK HITTERS
Jordan Jenkins has missed three straight with an injury … she had played in the first 19 contests, including making nine starts, before sustaining a knee injury at Old Dominion (1/24/19) … Jordan Alexander had five boards against WKU (2/2/19), her most in a game since also snaring five against UAB (1/17/19) … made a team-best 16 total steals … the majority (101 of 120) of her rebounds have been at the defensive end … Neidy Ocuane has almost twice as many 3-point field goals (15) than two-point field goals (eight) on the season … played 25+ minutes in three straight games after surpassing 25 minutes in a game just once the first 19 contests of the campaign … had eight turnovers against WKU (2/2/19) after making nine total in the first seven league tilts … Zuzanna Puc has posted back-to-back double-doubles for the second time this season … grabbed at least seven rebounds in six straight games for the first time of her career … played 30+ minutes in each of those contests, also a first for Puc … averaging 17.7 points and 12.0 rebounds while shooting 51.3 percent (20-39) from the floor, including 57.1 percent (4-7) on triples the past three games … reached double figures in scoring in five of the past six contests and a team-best 14 games on the campaign … made nine of her past 10 attempts at the free-throw line … Jade Rochelle ranks second on the team in offensive boards (35) and fourth in rebounds per game (4.4) despite rating sixth on the squad in minutes per game (18.3) … only player on the squad to have not started at least once this season … made her second career 3-pointer against WKU (2/2/19) … Ariona Gill started the first 12 contests before missing eight in a row with an injury … been back in action the past two tilts, coming off the bench in both … posted at least three assists in consecutive contests for the first time of her career, including matching her career high with four against WKU (2/2/19) … Sabine Lipe has missed six straight games due to getting hurt at Rice (1/12/19) … chipped in 3.2 ppg and 2.3 rpg in 13.8 mpg before going down with the injury … Alexa Hoy has missed three straight games due to an injury suffered at Old Dominion (1/24/19) … she had started the previous five contests, earning at least 30 minutes of playing time in each of them … Ariana Taylor has started six straight and seven of the past eight contests after coming off the bench the first 14 games of the season … scored nine points against WKU (2/2/19), her most since putting up 12 at Rice (1/12/19) … was a perfect 3-3 from the floor (1-1 on 3’s) and 2-2 at the charity stripe against the Lady Toppers … Katarina Zec has played 35+ minutes in four straight games for the first time of her career … posted a season-high 19 points against WKU (2/2/19), matching her career best with eight field goals made … reached double figures in scoring in three straight games for the first time this season and third occasion of her career … has never strung together four such consecutive contests .
TRENDING WITH THE TEAM
Posted its highest-scoring second quarter (24 points) of the season against WKU (2/2/19) … drilled 52.5 percent (21-40) from the floor in the contest, its best effort since making 53.6 percent (30-56) in the win vs. Western Illinois (12/20/18) … the hot shooting contributed to notching a season-low tying six offensive boards … WKU posted an opponent season-high 17 steals but it set an opponent campaign low for 3-point percentage (13.0) while matching it in both 3-pointers made (three) and assists (nine) … led at the half in back-to-back games for the first time since doing so in the first two contests of the campaign … carried an advantage through three quarters in consecutive contests for the first time of the season … lost back-to-back league home contests (without a road game in-between) by three points or less for the first time in program history … in the midst (0-2 thus far) of playing six of nine games at home to close out the regular season for the first time since joining Conference USA in 2005-06.
DEFENDING WITHOUT FOULING
The Miners are committing 14.2 fouls per game (first C-USA/25th NCAA), aided by having the third-fewest infractions (six) in program history at Charlotte (1/26/19). The opposition has been hit for 18.9 fpg, a stark contrast. Overall there have been 313 fouls on UTEP (first C-USA/54th NCAA) and 417 on the opposition. One direct impact has been UTEP having advantages in free throws made and attempted. The Miners are 267-388 from the charity stripe compared to their foes standing 219-307.
IT’S A QUARTER THING
UTEP has a -5.0 average scoring margin (12.6-17.7) in the first quarter, but it is much more competitive the rest of the way. The average difference is -2.4 (13.9-16.2) in the second quarter, -0.6 in the third quarter (14.7-15.3) and -1.5 (16.5-18.0) in the fourth quarter. Overall on the season the Miners have been outscored by 209 points (1269-1478). They are -111 (278-389) in the first quarter, -52 (305-357) in the second quarter, -14 (323-337) in the third quarter and -32 (363-395) in the fourth quarter.
DEEPER LOOK AT THE LOSSES
The chart below shows UTEP’s differential in its worst quarter of each loss compared to the Miners’ margin in the other three quarters combined in the game. It is sorted by highest-to-lowest differential in the other three quarters.
Opp. Diff In Worst Quarter Diff Other Three Quarters Final Score
Abilene Christian -15 (8-23), 1Q +14 (61-47) L, 69-70
Nicholls State -13 (6-19), 4Q +11 (50-39) L, 56-58
at Weber State -12 (10-22), 1Q +7 (53-46) L, 63-68
Marshall -10 (5-15), 3Q +7 (55-48) L, 60-63
WKU -9 (14-23), 4Q +6 (47-41) L, 61-64
NM State -10 (8-18), 1Q +6 (57-51) L, 65-69
Arkansas State -6 (18-24), 4Q +5 (48-43) L, 66-67
vs. Akron -7 (12-19), 4Q 0 (45-45) L, 57-64
at Tulsa -20 (5-25), 1Q -1 (40-41) L, 45-66
at UNM -8 (8-21), 2Q -5 (43-48) L, 51-69
at ODU -11 (11-22), 4Q -8 (48-56) L, 59-78
at Arizona -14 (9-23), 2Q -8 (31-39) L, 40-62
UAB -18 (6-24), 2Q -8 (42-50) L, 48-74
at North Texas -8 (14-22), 1Q -11 (37-48) L, 51-70
MT -17 (13-30), 1Q -13 (36-49) L, 49-79
at Charlotte -9 (7-16), 1Q -14 (32-46) L, 39-62
Portland State -9 (17-26), 1Q -19 (44-63) L, 61-89
Rice -13 (10-23), 1Q -19 (32-53) L, 42-76
PUTTING UP THE POINTS
Zuzanna Puc (12.6 ppg, 12th C-USA), Ariona Gill (9.9 ppg), Katarina Zec (8.2 ppg) and Jordan Alexander (7.8 ppg) have been the most consistent scoring threats for the Miners in 2018-19. They are combining for 38.5 of UTEP’s 57.5 points per game on average (66.9 percent), with no other player on the squad tallying more than 6.5 ppg. The quartet is responsible for 36 of the 47 double-digit scoring efforts on the campaign. Puc (13) leads, followed by Zec (eight), Alexander (seven) and Gill (seven). Ariana Taylor (four), Alexa Hoy (currently injured-four), Jordan Jenkins (currently injured-one), Neidy Ocuane (one) and Jade Rochelle (one) have the other 11.
TALKING PLAYING TIME
There is plenty of playing time to go around of late, with the Miners dressing seven the past three contests. Every individual on the squad is earning double digits in minutes per game. UTEP has used eight different starting line-up combinations. Zuzanna Puc is the lone Miner to have started all 21 contests, and she is earning a team-high 30.0 minutes per game.
UTEP IN THE RANKINGS
UTEP is in the upper echelon of C-USA and among the top-100 nationally for fewest fouls per game (14.2, first/35th), fewest total fouls (313, first/54th) and free throws made (267, sixth, 99th).
INDIVIDUALS IN THE RANKINGS
Zuzanna Puc is in the C-USA leaders for offensive rebounds per game (2.3, ninth), defensive rebounds per game (4.6, ninth), rebounds per game (7.0, ninth), points per game (12.6, 12th) and free-throw percentage (65.5, 14th). Jordan Alexander checks in the C-USA rankings for defensive rebounds per game (4.5, tied 11) and rebounds per game (5.5, tied 19th). Katarina Zec places 15th in 3-point field-goal percentage (34.8).
Junior Zuzanna Puc paces the Miners in scoring (12.6 ppg, 12th C-USA), rebounding (7.0, ninth C-USA/248th NCAA), field-goal percentage (47.6), double-doubles (six), minutes per game (30.0), offensive rebounds per game (2.3, ninth C-USA), defensive rebounds per game (4.6, ninth), total blocked shots (13), field goals made (107), field goals attempted (225), free throws made (55) and free throws attempted (84). She also ranks second on the squad in total steals (12). Puc has produced a team-best 14 double-digit scoring efforts (UTEP is 4-10 in those games). The native of Poland is the only player on the squad to have started all 22 contests.
Jordan Alexander, the lone senior on the squad, has been trying to lead by example. She paces the team in 3-pointers made (24) and 3-pointers attempted (71) while rating second on the squad in rebounding (5.5, 19th C-USA), defensive boards per game (4.6, 11th C-USA), tied for second in 3-point percentage (33.8) and minutes per game (28.5). She is also fourth in scoring (7.8 ppg).
Sophomore Alexa Hoy (currently injured) has emerged as a key player for the Miners. In C-USA action Hoy has earned a team-best 35.8 minutes per game while also rating second in scoring (10.8 ppg) and 3-point percentage (47.1). Overall on the season Hoy is producing 6.3 ppg (fifth on team), but she has missed the past three contests due to an injury sustained at Old Dominion (1/24/19).
Freshman Ariana Taylor has made big strides since early in the year, culminating with starting seven of the past eight games. She chipped in 4.5 points per game and 2.0 rebounds per game during nonconference play, but is contributing 6.8 ppg and 3.7 rpg in C-USA action. She leads the team in league play for 3-pointers made (nine) and 3-point percentage (47.1). The surge has elevated her seasonal averages to 5.4 ppg and 2.7 rpg.
WORTH THE WAIT
Ariona Gill, who sat out last year as a redshirt, has looked to be worth the wait by ranking second on the team in scoring (9.9 ppg). Gill started the first 12 games on the season before missing eight in a row due to an injury (UTEP was 1-7 without her). She has been back on the court the past two contests, coming off the bench in both of them. She has chipped in 2.5 ppg, 3.5 apg and 1.0 rpg, with zero turnovers, in 14.0 mpg since her return to the court.
Junior Katarina Zec is second on the squad for 3-pointers made (23) and 3-pointers attempted (68) while sharing second in 3-point percentage (33.8). She is also third on the team in scoring (7.8 ppg), aided by a season-high 19 last time out against WKU (2/2/19), and places fourth in minutes per game (26.5). She started the first 14 games before coming off the bench at North Texas (1/10/19), snapping an overall streak of 58 consecutive starts. Zec has started every contest since. She has been consistent at the charity stripe, nailing 30-38 attempts for a team-high 78.9 percent.
THE BAKER FILE (OVERALL: 365-163, COLLEGE: 143-62, UTEP: 21-32)
Kevin Baker is in his second year (21-32) at the helm of the UTEP women’s basketball team. He is in his 17th year overall (365-163) as a head coach, including his seventh season (143-62) 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.
BAKER’S FIRST-YEAR SUCCESS
Kevin Baker set the school record for most wins (17-14) by a first-year Miner head coach in 2017-18, but that doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story. The seven previous first-year head coaches had an average combined record of 8-17. Carol Ammerman (11-5, 1974-75) and Janet Wood (11-16, 1979-80) shared the school mark for wins (11). Baker obliterated that figure while also joining Ammermann as the lone individuals to experience a winning season in year one at UTEP. Furthermore, Baker became the initial first-year Miner head coach to taste victory at the league tournament.
WINNING NUMBERS UNDER BAKER
The Miners are 11-1 (3-0 this year) when scoring 70+ points under Kevin Baker. Other notable records in the Baker era include being, 9-3 (2-3 this year) when shooting at least 50 percent from the floor, 10-3 (3-2 this season) when drilling better than 40 percent from 3-point range (min. four makes), 15-8 (4-3 this year) when holding the opponent to below 40.0 percent from the floor and 15-8 (3-4 in ‘18-19) when leading after three quarters.
REBOUND OR ELSE…
UTEP has only won one game in two years under Kevin Baker when it has not won the boards. The Miners are 0-11 this year and 1-16 in the Baker era when they have not outrebounded their opponent. Those records includes an 0-1 mark when the rebounds are equal.
HOME SWEET HOME
UTEP has an all-time home record of 362-228, including standing 2-9 in the Don Haskins Center in 2018-19. Six of the nine losses this year have been by four points or less. The Miners have amassed a record of 164-54 at home since 2006-07, including 97-37 since 2011-12. UTEP has been particularly strong in nonconference play, standing 82-17 in the Sun City in such contests since 2006-07.
UTEP is 145-371 all time on the road, including 1-8 thus far in 2018-19. When playing at a neutral site the Miners stand 61-80, including 1-1 this year. Since the start of the 2006-07 season UTEP is 63-78 on the road, including 39-47 since 2011-12.
UTEP juniors Zuzanna Puc and Katarina Zec are starting to sprinkle their names in the UTEP career records. Puc is 12th in blocked shots (49), 25th for field goals made (299), 26th in rebounds (437), 32nd in points (740) and 39th for games played (82). Zec is 12th in 3-pointers attempted (244), 13th in 3-pointers made (81), 15th in games started (71), 24th for minutes played (2,071), 42nd in games played (78) and 43rd for points (609).
FOURTH BEST IN TEXAS SINCE 2006-07
The Miners have the fourth-most victories among all DI programs in the state of Texas since 2006-07. Power conference members Baylor (401-54), Texas A&M (326-112) and Texas (280-143) lead the way followed by the Miners (250-152). Lamar (248-146), Stephen F. Austin (244-149), TCU (238-169), Prairie View A&M (212-187), SMU (204-189) and Texas Tech (195-207) round out the top 10.
The Miners are 150-98 since the start of the 2011-12 season (4-18 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 18 separate winning streaks of at least three games (nine such skids), and posted 90 double-digit victories (51 such losses) during that time frame
45 SEASONS AND COUNTING
The 2018-19 season marks the 45th in program history. The 1974-75 squad, the inaugural one at UTEP, will be honored in the Miners’ game against WKU on Feb. 2, 2019. The 1974-75 finished 11-5.
GETTING TO KNOW THE 2018-19 MINERS
UTEP returned four letter winners (Jordan Alexander-8.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, Jordan Jenkins-2.0 ppg, 1.4 apg, Zuzanna Puc-9.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg and Katarina Zec-9.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg) from last year’s squad (17-14, 7-9 C-USA). Also back are a pair of players (Ariona Gill and Neidy Ocuane) who sat out last year as redshirts. The Miners also have newcomers (Eliana Cabral, freshman guard, Alexa Hoy, sophomore guard, Sabine Lipe, freshman guard, Jade Rochelle, junior guard/forward and Ariana Taylor, freshman forward), but Cabral is slated to take a redshirt year in 2018-19. The squad is under the direction of second-year head coach Kevin Baker, who is assisted by Lori Morris, Michael Madrid and Kayla Weaver.
Nearly half (5-11) of the Miners’ roster in 2018-19 is comprised of international players. Eliana Cabral (Portugal), Sabine Lipe (Latvia), Neidy Ocuane (Mozambique), Zuzanna Puc (Poland) and Katarina Zec (Serbia) give UTEP a distinct international flavor this season.
The Miners feature five native Texans (Jordan Alexander, Dallas, Alexa Hoy, Rockwall, Jordan Jenkins, Tennessee Colony, Jade Rochelle, Grandview and Ariana Taylor, Houston) on the roster. The only other American on the team (Ariona Gill) hails from Las Vegas, Nev.
SHARING THE LEADERSHIP
For the third straight season the Miners feature a squad with just one senior (Jordan Alexander). She is far from alone in terms of leadership, with five juniors (Ariona Gill, Neidy Ocuane, Zuzanna Puc, Jade Rochelle and Katarina Zec) on the roster. Puc and Zec have earned a pair of letters for the Miners. Gill and Ocuane sat out last season as redshirts, while Rochelle is a transfer from Blinn College.
BASIC FACTS ON UTEP
UTEP is 568-680 in its 45th season as a women’s basketball program, including standing 4-18 in 2018-19. 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.
QUICK 2017-18 YEAR IN REVIEW
The Miners compiled an overall record of 17-14 (7-9 in C-USA play, 9-4 in nonconference action) to surge past the 2016-17 team’s overall victory total (8-23) by nine wins while also exceeding the number of league victories (5-13 C-USA). UTEP also won a game at the C-USA tournament, and it even led top-seed UAB by five points late in the third quarter before ultimately succumbing, 75-66, on March 8, 2018.
CONNECT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Fans are encouraged to connect with the Miners on Facebook (UTEP Women’s Basketball), Instagram (@utepwbb) and Twitter (@UTEPWBB).
UTEP will conclude its stay in the “Sunshine State” when it locks up with FIU at 12 p.m. MT/2 p.m. ET on Saturday. Brandon Cohn will have the call for on 600 ESPN El Paso.
CLIFF NOTES ON THE 2018-19 SEASON
UTEP DROPS HARD-FOUGHT BATTLE TO MARSHALL (MARSHALL 63, AT UTEP 60 1/31/19)
Junior Zuzanna Puc produced a double-double (23 points, career-high 14 rebounds) 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, at home on Jan. 31. The Miners, 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 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, who had missed eight straight games with an injury, came off the bench to pitch in two points and three assists in 10 minutes of action. 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. 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.
INJURY-RIDDLED UTEP FALLS AT CHARLOTTE (AT CHARLOTTE 62, UTEP 39, 1/26/19)
Juniors Zuzanna Puc (13 points) and Katarina Zec (11 points) both hit double figures in scoring but injury-depleted UTEP was handed a 62-39 setback at Charlotte on Jan. 26. Down to just six healthy players as result of injuries, the Miners did their best to hold their own against the homestanding 49ers. UTEP battled and trailed by just one (8-7) with 3:24 left in the first quarter. The home side picked things up, wrapping a 17-2 run around the break on the way to eventually leading by 17 (34-17) heading into halftime. UTEP continued to get after it over the final 20 minutes, peeling off nine straight points midway through the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get back into it fully as Charlotte improved to 10-1 on the season at Halton Arena. UTEP won the rebounding battle (31-29), thanks in part to Puc’s game-high nine boards, but it was hurt by shooting 30.6 percent (15-49) from the floor while also committing 25 turnovers. The 49ers took advantage by converting those giveaways into 31 points, while also connecting on 50.0 percent (25-50) from the floor. Included among that was finishing 12-21 (57.1 percent) from distance. Each Miner logged at least 25 minutes in the game, with Zec playing the entire tilt. Puc (38 minutes) matched her career high while Neidy Ocuane (37 minutes) and Jade Rochelle (25 minutes) had personal bests.
SHORT-HANDED UTEP FALLS AT ODU (AT ODU 78, UTEP 59, 1/24/19)
Jordan Alexander tallied a team-high 15 points and short-handed UTEP battled before running out of steam in a 78-59 loss at Old Dominion on Jan. 24. The Miners fell behind by 12 (13-1) seven minutes into the contest before digging in to try to fight back. UTEP twice got the margin to four and trailed by only eight (56-48) through three quarters before fatigue became a factor. The Lady Monarchs outscored the visitors, 22-11, in the final frame to pull away for their fifth straight win. The Orange and Blue finished the contest with six healthy players, as both Jordan Jenkins and Alexa Hoy sustained injuries during the game. UTEP shot 34.7 percent (17-49) from the floor, including making six triples, while also enjoying a big day at the charity stripe (19-27, 70 percent). The Miners also won the boards (38-35, ODU). The homestanding Lady Monarchs made up for it by shooting a bit better (29-64, 45.3 percent) and taking great care of the ball (seven turnovers). Katarina Zec tallied 11 points, including nailing two triples, to join Alexander in double figures. Neidy Ocuane matched her career high with eight points. Ariana Taylor, Zuzanna Puc and Jade Rochelle all finished with seven points while Hoy pitched in six before leaving with the aforementioned injury,
UTEP DOWNED BY C-USA LEADER MIDDLE TENNESSEE (MT 79, AT UTEP 49, 1/19/19)
UTEP hung tough early with league-leading Middle Tennessee before the visitors found another level in an eventual 79-49 defeat on Jan. 19 at the Don Haskins Center. The Miners trailed by just four (14-10) with 4:31 to play in the first quarter only to have the Blue Raiders rip off a 36-7 half-closing run to head into the locker room armed with a 50-17 advantage. To its credit UTEP continued to battle after the break and was rewarded by outscoring the first place team in the league, 32-29, over the final 20 minutes. Zuzanna Puc (17 points) and Jordan Alexander (14 points) reached double digits in scoring for the Miners, who were plagued by an off shooting day. UTEP finished at 28.6 percent (12-42) from the floor in the contest. MT cooled off in the second half but still finished at 44.4 percent (26-63) for the game. The visitors also drained 11 3-pointers to the Miners’ four triples. UTEP committed only 11 turnovers and was credited with nine helpers on its 12 made field goals. Puc pulled down a team-high eight rebounds while Jade Rochelle (six) and Alexa Hoy (career-high five) also got involved on the glass. MT was led by A’Queen Hayes, who finished with a double-double (18 points, 13 rebounds). Alexis Whittington (13 points) and Taylor Sutton (10 points) also reached double figures for the Blue Raiders.
UTEP TOPPLED BY PRESEASON FAVORITE UAB (UAB 74, AT UTEP 48, 1/17/19)
Junior Zuzanna Puc notched her fourth double-double (11 points, career-high 13 rebounds) of the year while sophomore Alexa Hoy joined her in double figures (team-high 13 points) but UTEP couldn’t sustain a strong start in a 74-48 setback to preseason league favorite UAB at the Don Haskins Center on Jan. 17. The Miners got off to a much-needed good start, leading by seven (11-4) with 3:49 to play in the opening quarter. The Blazers regrouped and struck back in the form of a 34-6 run to suddenly surge out by 21 (38-17) late in the opening half. The home side played hard the rest of the way, but the damage had been done. UTEP was hindered by an off shooting night, finishing at a season-low 26.6 percent (17-64) from the floor. It was a different story for the Blazers, who connected on 44.8 percent (26-57) of their shots. UAB also was locked in from distance, nailing 13-29 (44.8 percent) from beyond-the-arc. The Orange and Blue tried to make up for that by taking good care of the ball (12 turnovers), winning the boards (42-38), enjoying a 21-0 margin in second-chance points and a 28-22 differential in points in the paint but it wasn’t enough. Jade Rochelle came off the bench to tally nine points while also grabbing six boards, buoying the efforts of Puc and Hoy. Rachael Childress (18 points), Lea Kerstein (16 points) and Katelynn Thomas (16 points) led the charge for the visitors while Deanna Kuzmanic added eight points. It marked the 13th consecutive road win in C-USA play for the defending regular-season league champions.
UTEP FALLS TO RICE ON THE ROAD (AT RICE 76, UTEP 42, 1/12/19)
Freshman Ariana Taylor reached double figures in scoring (12 points) for the second straight game but league-leading Rice used a big day on the boards and a barrage of 3-pointers to clip the Miners, 76-42, inside Tudor Fieldhouse on Jan. 12. The Miners had an off shooting day (13-40, 32.4 percent) and also were challenged in the rebounding department (38-24), as the Owls won their sixth straight game and for the 13th time in the past 14 contests. Rice connected on 50.0 percent (27-54) from the floor, including drilling 12-26 (46.2 percent) from 3-point range. It is just the third time in 47 game of the Kevin Baker era that an opponent has finished at 50.0 percent or better from the floor. Taylor came off the bench to post a team-high 12 points, giving her back-to-back double-digit scoring efforts for the first time of her career. Sophomore Alexa Hoy continued her strong play of late with nine points while senior Jordan Alexander added eight and junior Katarina Zec pitched in seven.
UTEP DISPATCHED AT NORTH TEXAS (AT NORTH TEXAS 70, UTEP 51, 1/10/19)
Freshman Ariana Taylor (13 points) and sophomore Alexa Hoy (12 points) reached double figures in scoring but a tough start loomed large in UTEP’s 70-51 deficit against North Texas at the Super Pit on Jan. 10. The Miners found themselves down 11 (14-3) three minutes into the contest, with the Mean Green connecting on their first six shots. UTEP did its best to withstand the early barrage, battling to get within five (35-30) midway through the third quarter only to have a 9-0 UNT run put the game out of reach for good. The Miners finished at 34.6 percent (18-52) from the floor, which was hindered by a readout of 22.2 percent (4-18) from 3-point range. After the quick start shooting by the home side UTEP tightened up, resulting in UNT checking in at 41.9 percent (26-62). The Mean Green won the boards (43-37), despite Taylor (career-high seven rebounds) and Zuzanna Puc (seven boards) putting in some work on the glass. The Orange and Blue did take good care of the ball with only 12 giveaways but it wasn’t enough to compensate for the other areas.
HOY’S CARER DAY HELPS MINERS RACE PAST ROADRUNNERS (UTEP 73, AT UTSA 60, 1/5/19)
Sophomore Alexa Hoy poured in a career-high 22 points off the bench to pace a trio of Miners in double figures as UTEP toppled UTSA, 73-60, on the road in the Conference USA opener for both squads inside the Convocation Center on Jan. 5. The first true road victory of the year for the Miners moves them to 11-3 all time in C-USA lidlifters. The Roadrunners didn’t make it easy by bolting to a 10-point (22-12) lead early in the second quarter, but behind Hoy’s 12 points in the frame UTEP pulled even (30-30) at half. The Miners were up by two (49-47) before using a huge fourth quarter (24-13) to post the double-digit victory. Jordan Alexander (season-high 18 points) and Zuzanna Puc (15 points) joined Hoy in double figures for scoring while freshmen Ariana Taylor (eight points) and Sabine Lipe (seven points) also got after it. UTEP crushed the Roadrunners, the top offensive-rebounding team in the league, on the boards (45-28), with Alexander snagging 11 rebounds to post her second double-double this season. Lipe got involved as well by pulling down a career-best seven caroms. The Miners shot 45.3 percent (24-53) from the floor, including connecting on 8-20 (40.0 percent) from distance. UTEP shared the ball effectively, racking up 17 assists on its 24 field goals made. It was a different story for the home side, which was limited to 33.3 percent (22-66) shooting, including 22.7 percent (5-22) on 3-point tries. But the story of the day was Hoy, who put on a show in front of her mom, aunt and grandmother. She nailed 7-12 from the floor, including 2-5 from distance. She also made 6-7 free throws, including 5-6 in the final frame, to help ice the contest.
UTEP erased a 10-point deficit (22-12) in the second quarter on the way to winning by 13 (73-60) at UTSA (1/5/19). It marked the first time since a 78-66 victory at Florida Atlantic (1/21/16) that the Miners overcame a double-digit deficit to prevail by at least 10 points on the road.
TALKING LEAGUE OPENERS
UTEP improved to 11-3 in Conference USA openers since joining the league (2005-06), including now standing a perfect 2-0 in the situation under Kevin Baker. Furthermore the Miners have now won nine of their last 10 league lid lifters. Overall UTEP stands 16-22 all time in conference lid lifters.
Guard Sabine Lipe had seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the win at UTSA (1/5/19), making her the first Miner freshman to have a stat line of at least 7-7-7 in those categories since Shalana Taylor recorded a triple-double (12-11-10) in a 71-50 win against Hawaii on Feb. 19, 2005.
UTEP TRIPPED UP AT TULSA (AT TULSA 66, UTEP 45, 12/29/18)
Katarina Zec (season-high 16 points) and Zuzanna Puc (13 points) each reached double figures in scoring but a slow start proved fatal in UTEP’s 66-45 setback at Tulsa on Dec. 29. The Miners dug themselves a 20-point hole (25-5) through 10 minutes of action and could never recovery against the Golden Hurricane. UTEP won the second (11-10) and third quarters (18-14) before being outpaced slightly (17-11) in the final frame. The Orange and Blue were without their second-leading scorer (Ariona Gill), who missed the contest with an injury. Freshman Sabine Lipe started in her place, contributing a career-best six assists and three boards. UTEP finished at 32.7 percent (18-55) from the floor, recording 13 assists on its 18 made field goals. It also took decent care of the ball with 15 turnovers, but the first quarter was too much to overcome. Rebounding favored Tulsa slightly (36-33), but the Miners enjoyed a 26-20 cushion for points in the paint. Jade Rochelle set the tone for the Orange and Blue on the boards by grabbing a team-best seven caroms. In terms of scoring, Jordan Alexander (seven points), Ariana Taylor (five points) and Rochelle (four points) followed after Zec and Puc.
TAYLOR SCORES CAREER-HIGH 16 BUT UTEP FALLS TO AKRON (VS. AKRON 64, UTEP 57, 12/21/18)
Freshman Ariana Taylor came off the bench to pour in a career-high 16 points but UTEP was upended against Akron, 64-57, in its second and final game at the Vegas South Point Holiday Hoops Classic on Dec. 21. The Miners trailed by 10 (41-31) with 6:17 to play in the third quarter before the bench essentially orchestrated a 12-0 run to give them their first lead since it was 4-2 in the opening frame. It was back-and-forth the rest of the way, before the Zips used a 6-0 run late to create some separation and hold on for the win. UTEP’s reserves proved their worth, accounting for 37 of the team’s 57 points on the night. The Miners connected on 41.3 percent (19-46) of their shots while going 15-18 at the charity stripe. UTEP took good care of the ball, committing only 10 turnovers. All 10 Miners suited up played between 18-26 minutes during the contest. Taylor was the lone member of the Orange and Blue to reach double figures in scoring. Katarina Zec buoyed her with eight, followed by Sabine Lipe (career-high tying seven) and Alexa Hoy (five).
UTEP SHOOTS PAST WESTERN ILLINOIS (UTEP 84, VS. WESTERN ILLINOIS 72, 12/20/18)
Zuzanna Puc posted a double-double (season-best 24 points, 11 rebounds) and UTEP erupted for a season high in points in an 84-72 win against Western Illinois as part of the Las Vegas South Point Holiday Hoops Classic on Dec. 20. The Miners shot a campaign-best 53.6 percent (30-56) from the floor, aided by nailing a season-high 11 3-pointers on 19 attempts for their top percentage (.579) from distance on the year to snap an eight-game skid in style. UTEP led for 30 minutes against the Fighting Leathernecks, including being up by as many as 20 (77-57) in the fourth quarter. Puc had a field day against a WIU squad that didn’t have a player taller than 6’0, shooing 9-18 from the floor and securing four of her 11 rebounds on the offensive end. She was the lone member of the Orange and Blue to reach double figures in scoring, but every Miner had least four points in the contest. Puc led with 24, followed by Alexa Hoy (nine points), Jordan Alexander (eight points), Ariona Gill (eight points), Neidy Ocuane (career-high eight points), Sabine Lipe (career-best seven points), Katarina Zec (seven points), Jade Rochelle (five points), Jordan Jenkins (four points) and Ariana Taylor (four points). UTEP shared the ball well, recording 23 assists on 30 made field goals. Jenkins set the tone in that department with a career-high tying seven dimes compared to just one giveaway. Gill added a personal-best matching four helpers. The Miners also dominated on the boards (41-27) and in points in the paint (34-20)
UTEP DISPATCHED AT ARIZONA (AT ARIZONA 62, UTEP 40, 12/17/18)
UTEP held Arizona to its lowest scoring total of the season but turnovers and not enough shots falling loomed large in a 62-40 road setback inside the McKale Center on Dec. 17. RS-Junior Ariona Gill (11 points) and senior Jordan Alexander (10 points) hit double figures in scoring to pace the Miners, who limited the Wildcats to 17 points below their season average (78.6 ppg). UTEP also won the boards (36-31) but couldn’t get into a good rhythm consistently against the homestanding Wildcats. The Miners finished at 36.6 (15-41) percent from the floor, but of greater concern were the 19 turnovers that resulted in 23 points for the home side. It was a different story for UA, which had only nine giveaways and shot 40.9 percent (25-61) from the field. Freshman Ariana Taylor provided a spark off the bench with eight points and a career-high tying four rebounds in 14 minutes of action. Fellow classmate Sabine Lipe added a career-best five points, including a fancy old-fashioned 3-point play in transition.
UTEP FALLS TO UNDEFEATED PORTLAND STATE (PORTLAND STATE 89, AT UTEP 61, 12/9/18)
Redshirt-junior Ariona Gill posted her first career double-double (17 points, career-best 12 rebounds) but an off shooting day and a balanced offensive attack from the visitors proved problematic in UTEP’s 89-61 loss to undefeated Portland State at the Don Haskins Center on Dec. 9. Jade Rochelle (career-high 11 points) and Ariana Taylor (career-high 10 points) came off the bench to provide a spark for the Miners, who played the second half without leading scorer and rebound Zuzanna Puc. Jordan Alexander added eight points and eight boards, but the Vikings simply had too much firepower. PSU was paced by Kylie Jimenez’s 21 points while Ashley Bolston (18 points), Sidney Rielly (14 points) and Ana Tainta (13 points) also had big days. The Miners finished at 32.8 percent (20-61) from the floor, including 25.0 percent (3-12) from 3-point range. It was a different story for the Vikings, who drained 44.2 percent (34-77) of their attempts on the day. PSU had a slight edge in rebounding (45-41), with the 11 rebounds by Desirae Hanson in 20 minutes making a difference for her squad. The Vikings also had significant advantages in points in the paint (42-28) and fastbreak points (24-21). UTEP shared the ball effectively, recording 15 assists on 20 made field goals.
PUC TALLIES SEASON-HIGH 21 POINTS IN LOSS AT UNM (AT NEW MEXICO 69, UTEP 51, 12/5/18)
Zuzanna Puc poured in a season-high 21 points, including 10 during a big first quarter, but UTEP couldn’t sustain its fast start in a 69-51 loss at New Mexico on Dec. 5. The Miners bolted out to a 19-10 advantage through 10 minutes of action, with Puc single-handily matching the Lobos for scoring in the frame. The home side regrouped and responded in a big way to pull away over the final three quarters. In spite of that, UTEP kept the Lobos to a season-low 69 points. UNM entered the game putting up 81 points per game and was flying high after routing NM State, 83-58, last time out on Dec. 1. Jordan Jenkins (eight points, five assists) and Jordan Alexander (seven points, nine boards) buoyed the efforts of Puc. UTEP recorded 15 assists on its 20 made field goals while also keeping things competitive on the glass (41-38, UNM). Overall the Miners connected on 36.4 percent (20-55) from the floor, including a sizzling 53.3 percent (8-15) over the first 10 minutes of action.
A-STATE SLIPS PAST UTEP (ARKANSAS STATE 67, AT UTEP 66, 12/1/18)
UTEP connected on 50 percent of its shots (23-46) and won the rebounding battle (37-31) but visiting Arkansas State escaped with a 67-66 win at the Don Haskins on Dec. 1. The Miners led by two (66-64) before Akasha Westbrook converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to put the Red Wolves up by one (67-66) with 13 seconds left. UTEP called timeout to advance the ball and looked to retake the lead but it wasn’t in the cards as redshirt-junior Neidy Ocuane was called for a change with less than a second to play. UTEP had led by as many as 10 (37-27, 8:23 3Q) early in the second half, and the margin was still at five (48-43) going into the fourth quarter before A-State rallied. Redshirt-junior Ariona Gill (17 points), Alexander (13 points) and junior Zuzanna Puc (12 points) set the tone offensively for the Miners. Transfer Jade Rochelle pitched in eight points and a career-best nine rebounds in a personal-best 24 minutes played. UTEP held A-State to 38.7 percent (24-62) from the floor, including just 23.5 percent (4-17) from 3-point range. The visitors compensated for that by forcing 23 Miner turnovers that were converted into 27 points. Another factor was A-State, which entered the contest leading the nation in both free throws made and attempted, going 15-26 at the charity stripe. Included in that was a 12-22 effort in the second half. UTEP was 12-13 from the free-throw line, including 8-9 in the final 20 minutes.
NEARLY PERFECT AT THE LINE
UTEP nailed 12-13 from the free-throw line against Arkansas State (12/1). It marked the ninth-highest percentage (92.3) in a single game at program history. Zuzanna Puc and Jade Rochelle keyed the efforts by both going 4-4.
UTEP was credited with its most blocked shots (eight) of the Kevin Baker era in the setback against Arkansas State (12/1). Zuzanna Puc set the tone with a career-best four rejections. Ariona Gill also established a personal best with two blocks while Jordan Alexander and Jade Rochelle added one each.
MINERS UPENDED AT WEBER STATE (AT WEBER STATE 68, UTEP 63 11/28/18)
Jordan Alexander produced her first double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) of the year while Katarina Zec added a season-high 15 points but a slow start doomed UTEP in its 68-63 setback at Weber State on Nov. 28. The Miners were sluggish at the onset, with the Wildcats capitalizing in the form of a 15-0 run over the first five minutes of the game. UTEP went to work from the point on, getting the deficit all the way down to two (43-41, 4:07 3Q) midway through the third quarter. WSU responded five a 5-0 run and the Miners couldn’t get closer than five the rest of the way. UTEP piled up 15 assists on 22 made field goals, while tying for the fewest turnovers (six) in a road game in program history. The boards (42-41, WSU) were competitive as well but the home side found some separation with its shooting. WSU nailed 44.2 percent (23-52) from the field, including drilling 10-21 (47.6 percent) from 3-point range. Conversely, the Miners finished at 29.7 percent (22-74) from the floor. The Miners hit a season-best nine triples but needed the second-most attempts (33) in program history to do so. Zec drilled a quartet of triples while Alexander connected on 3-6 from beyond-the-arc. Jade Rochelle came off the bench to contribute career bests in both points (eight) and rebounds (eight), while Alexa Hoy added nine. Ariona Gill chipped in six points and career-high six boards.
ABILENE CHRISTIAN OUTLASTS UTEP (ABILENE CHRISTIAN 70, AT UTEP 69, 11/24/18)
Ariona Gill poured in a career-high 22 points while Zuzanna Puc added 18 points but visiting Abilene Christian outlasted UTEP, 70-69, in the final game of the UTEP Thanksgiving Classic at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 24. The Miners trailed the Wildcats by as many as 15 (23-8) in the opening quarter but they slowly but surely chipped away at the deficit. UTEP reduced the margin to seven (37-30) at the break before managing to take a one-point edge (50-49) heading to the fourth quarter. It was a back-and-fourth battle down the stretch, with ACU going back on top for good with a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left. An unlucky pass led to Gill having to race down the ball before heaving up a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer. UTEP drilled 52.5 percent (31-59) from the floor while also committing the then fewest turnovers (nine) of the Kevin Baker era but ACU was locked in offensively as well. The Wildcats drilled 51.1 percent (24-47) of their shots, including draining 14-28 (50.0) from beyond-the-arc. They also won the boards, 29-23. Katarina Zec pitched in 11 points to join Gill and Puc in double figures. Four different Miners registered five assists each to help UTEP pile up a season-best 24 assists. Dominique Golightly (18 points) and Makayla Mabry (17 points) led the way for ACU. The duo combined to make 10-17 from 3-point range.
POUNDING IT IN THE PAINT
UTEP attacked Abilene Christian down low, piling up 50 points in the paint. It marked the first time that the Miners have amassed that many points in the paint against a DI opponent since also tallying 50 in an 83-62 home win against FIU on Feb. 8, 2014.
COMEBACK BID FALLS SHORT TO NICHOLLS (NICHOLLS STATE 58, AT UTEP 56, 11/23/18)
Ariona Gill (14 points) and Jordan Alexander (season-high 12 points) hit double figures in scoring as UTEP rallied back from a 17-point second-quarter deficit to regain the lead several occasions in the fourth quarter only to have visiting Nicholls State pull out a 58-56 win as part of the UTEP Thanksgiving Classic at the Don Haskins Center Friday afternoon. The Miners (2-2) trailed 28-11 with 2:56 to play in the second period but they refused to quit against the Colonels (1-4). The home side used a huge third quarter (23-12) to get back within striking distance heading to the final frame. UTEP continued its push in the fourth quarter, going up by three (45-42) with 7:44 left. Nicholls State countered with eight straight points to vault out by five (50-45) before the Miners tallied the next six points to jump ahead by one (51-50). It was a seesaw battle the rest of the way, with a pair of free throws from Cassidy Barrios providing the seventh and final lead change with 52 seconds left. UTEP had a chance to tie or win it with two seconds left, but was unable to get a shot off. Barrios produced a game-high 22 points to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists to lead the way for Nicholls State. She was supported by a nine-point effort from Kinzie Heineman. UTEP connected 42.6 percent (20-47) from the floor, including 8-20 on 3-pointers, while also committing a season-low 13 turnovers but issues elsewhere doomed the home side. The Miners were 8-17 on free throws and were outrebounded, 34-27.
The Miners nailed a season-high eight 3-pointers in the setback vs. Nicholls State (11/23). Leading the charge was senior Jordan Alexander, who drilled a career-best four treys on five attempts on the way to a season-best 12 points.
UTEP RALLY FALLS SHOT TO NM STATE (NM STATE 69, AT UTEP 65, 11/17/18)
Zuzanna Puc registered her second straight double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) and UTEP battled valiantly but its comeback bid came up short in a 69-65 defeat to NM State in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10 at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 17. The Miners dug themselves an 18-5 hole nine minutes into the game, allowing the four-time defending WAC regular-season champion Aggies a much greater cushion than they needed. UTEP went to work, reducing the deficit to eight (30-22) at the break. The margin remained eight (53-45) with 7:14 remaining in regulation before the Miners uncorked an 11-3 surge to finally pull even at 56 with 3:03 left. NM State didn’t flinch, countering with 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to extend its advantage back to six (62-56). UTEP inched within three (64-61) with 1:08 left but the Aggies put the game away by nailing their eighth and final triple of the contest. Katarina Zec (14 points), Ariona Gill (14 points) and Alexa Hoy (career-high 13 points) joined Puc in double figures for scoring. Neidy Ocuane got involved as well, setting career bests for points (five), rebounds (five) and assists (three).
UTEP GRINDS OUT WIN VS. CSUB (AT UTEP 53, CSU BAKERSFIELD 47, 11/14/18)
Zuzanna Puc registered her fifth career double-double (12 points, personal-best tying 12 rebounds), and the defense did the rest in UTEP’s 53-47 win against CSU Bakersfield at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 14. The Miners held the Roadrunners to 28.8 percent (17-59) from the field, while also winning the rebounding battle (46-34) in the tightly-contested ballgame. UTEP outscored CSUB, 19-9, in the final frame to rally back from a four-point deficit (38-34) through 30 minutes of action. There were six ties and eight lead changes, with the final with coming during a 9-0 Miner run in the fourth quarter. The surge, which spanned roughly five minutes, turned a 41-36 deficit into a 45-41 advantage. UTEP never relinquished the lead from that point. The biggest shot was a 3-pointer by Neidy Ocuane, which proved to be the lone triple (1-20) of the game for the Orange and Blue. CSUB did fight back to tie the contest, 47-47, but the Miners pitched a shutout over the final 2:18. Katarina Zec connected on 6-8 at the charity stripe in that sequence to give the home side just enough to pull out the win. Zec finished with nine points and eight boards to support Puc, while Jordan Alexander contributed eight points and a quartet of rebounds. Sophomore Jordan Jenkins added six points and a career-high tying five boards. The Roadrunners were led by 13 points and 12 boards from Malayasia McHenry. CSUB’s Alexxus Gilbert and Jazmine Johnson were held to a total of 14 points on a combined 4-16 shooting. The duo entered the contest contributing 29.5 ppg on a combined 22-49 from the floor.
UTEP DOWNS ALCORN STATE IN OPENER (AT UTEP 77, ALCORN STATE 51, 11/10/18)
Zuzanna Puc poured in 18 points to pace a quartet of players in double figures as the UTEP women’s basketball team cruised to a 77-51 season-opening win vs. Alcorn State on Nov. 10. Ariona Gill (15 points), Jordan Jenkins (career-high 11 points, six assists) and Katarina Zec (11 points, personal-best tying nine rebounds) also got after it for the Miners. UTEP connected on 52.6 percent (30-57) from the floor, tied for the sixth-best rebounding margin (+27, 48-21) in program history and racked up 23 assists on 30 made field goals. They held ASU to 30.2 percent (16-53) shooting and forced 20 turnovers. Conchi Satorre pitched in five points and a trio of boards in 10 minutes of action to lead the reserves in scoring. The Lady Braves scored the first two points of the contest on a jumper, but UTEP punched back with a 12-0 surge over the next five minutes. The home side never trailed again.
BIGGEST WIN UNDER COACH BAKER
UTEP’s 26-point romp against Alcorn State served as its largest margin of victory under head coach Kevin Baker. The previous high was a 20-point differential (69-49) vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Nov. 18, 2017.
START IT UP
UTEP improved to 25-20 all time in season openers, including 21-7 when doing so in El Paso. The Miners are now 2-0 under Kevin Baker in season lidlifters.