The UTEP women’s basketball team (4-12, 1-2 C-USA) will open up the home portion of its Conference USA slate by welcoming preseason favorite and defending regular-season champion UAB (15-2, 3-1 C-USA) to the Don Haskins Center for a match-up at 7 p.m. MT on Thursday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, and may be purchased by calling 915-747-5234. It’s a two-for-one special this week, as fans who buy a single-game ticket for UTEP vs. UAB will receive a free ticket for the Miners’ match-up against Middle Tennessee (1 p.m. MT Saturday. Additionally, the first 500 fans on Thursday will also receive a free drawstring bag. The Miners will be looking to snap a two-game skid, having fallen most recently at Rice, 76-42, on Jan. 12. The Blazers are coming off a 71-60 vanquishing of Southern Miss on Jan. 12. UTEP will be playing at home for the first time since Dec. 9, as it has had seven straight (five road, two neutral) contests outside of El Paso. The Miners are 2-5 on the year in the Don Haskins Center, with the first four losses by four points or less. The Blazers are 6-0 on the road, including 2-0 within C-USA action. UAB has won 12 straight C-USA road contests, with its last such defeat coming at Middle Tennessee (87-56), on Feb. 26, 2017. The game will be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso with Steve Kaplowitz and Traci Miller on the call. There will also be a live stream on CUSAtv.com (subscription based).
RUNNING THE GAUNTLET
Thursday’s contest marks the second of three straight games against the teams voted in the top three of the C-USA preseason poll. The stretch started with a 76-42 loss at Rice (picked second) on Jan. 12. It continues this week at home with the match-ups against UAB (preseason favorite) and Middle Tennessee (picked third, 1 p.m. MT Saturday). Those teams are living up to the hype by sporting a combined record of 41-9 on the campaign, including 11-1 in league play.
HE SAID IT (COACH BAKER ON UAB)
“UAB will be a good challenge for us. They are the defending Conference USA champions and they are playing at a level high enough to repeat last year’s accomplishment. They are very well coached and shoot the ball extremely well from the perimeter. We will need have great game to be able to beat them, but I am confident that our team is on the verge of turning the corner. A win over UAB would get us back on track in a hurry.”
THE SERIES (OVERALL: UAB LEADS, 10-9; IN EL PASO: UTEP LEADS, 4-3)
UAB has a 10-9 edge in the series with the Miners, but UTEP has a 4-3 advantage when playing in El Paso. The two squads played a pair of games last season, with the Blazers winning both. UAB toppled the Orange and Blue, 84-64, in El Paso on Feb. 2, 2018, and then ended the Miners’ season with a 75-66 result in the quarterfinals of the 2018 C-USA Championships on March 8, 2018. This is the first of two scheduled meetings on the campaign, with UTEP making the trip
to Birmingham, Ala., on March 2. Additionally, the programs have locked up in the league tournament in five of the past seven campaigns. UAB won the first meeting ever between the programs, 61-41, on Dec. 20, 1990. The two squads did not square off again until the 2005-06 season when UTEP joined C-USA.
GET TO KNOW UAB (15-2, 3-1 C-USA; 7-1 HOME; 6-0 AWAY; 2-1 NEUTRAL)
Defending Conference USA regular-season champion UAB cruised through nonconference play with a mark of 12-1. The Blazers have kept things going since, winning three of their first four C-USA contests to improve to 15-2 overall (3-1 C-USA). UAB is in the upper echelon of the league and among the top-100 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.62, first/fourth), fewest turnovers per game (11.2, first/fifth), 3-point field-goal percentage defense (23.8, first./seventh), 3-pointers made (160, first/ninth), scoring margin (+20.5, first/11th), 3-pointers attempted (437, first/13th), fewest total turnovers (191, first/13th), assists per game (18.2, first/16th), defensive rebounds per game (29.9, first/16th), 3-pointers made per game (9.4, first/18th), field-goal percentage (45.9, second/23rd), scoring offense (78.6, first/27th), 3-point field-goal percentage (36.6, second/28th), field-goal percentage defense (35.8, first/40th), total rebounds (678, second/44th), turnover margin (+3.7, first/50th), scoring defense (58.1, third/52nd), fewest personal fouls per game (15.9, fourth/83rd), free throws made (202, fifth/99th) and total blocked shots (59, second/100th). Rachael Childress paces the high-octane attack at 14.8 points per game (ninth C-USA/209th NCAA). She is also among the C-USA/NCAA leaders for 3-pointers made (64, first/second), 3-pointers attempted (154, first/fourth), 3-pointers per game (3.8, first/seventh) and 3-point percentage (41.6, second/57th). Miyah Barnes runs the point, dishing out 5.5 assists per game (first C-USA/27th NCAA). She also sports a 3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio (first C-USA/fifth NCAA). Deanna Kuzmanic also is an effective passer, producing 4.5 assists per game (third C-USA/91st NCAA) and holding a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio (third C-USA/76th NCAA). Overall four Blazers are in double figures for scoring. The university was founded in 1969. Notable alumni include Regina Benjamin (former U.S. Surgeon General), Steve Chiotakis (featured on All Things Considered broadcast), Deidre Downs (2005 Miss America) and Vonetta Flowers (2002 Olympic gold medalist in bobsled)
LAST MEETING WITH UAB (#1 UAB 75 UTEP 42, JAN. 26, 2018)
Tamara Seda registered her 15th double-double (15 points, 14 rebounds) of the year and ninth-seeded UTEP made a valiant effort before top-seeded UAB pulled away down the stretch to down the Miners, 75-66, in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Conference USA Championships presented by Baylor Scott & White Sports Performance at the Star on March 8, 2018. UTEP dug itself an early double-digit deficit (15-5, 3:39 1Q), but Seda and the rest of the Miners refused to go down quietly against the regular-season champion Blazers. UTEP clawed back within two (33-31) at the half before eventually vaulting out to a five-point lead (56-51) with 58 seconds left in the third quarter. UAB responded by wrapping a 12-0 run around the quarter break, and it never trailed again. UTEP did score the game’s next four points to get within three (63-60) with 6:17 left but an 8-2 push over the next four minutes sealed the Miners’ fate. Overall UAB outscored UTEP, 20-10, in the decisive frame. Jordan Alexander (11 points), Zuzanna Puc (11 points) and Jordan Jenkins (career-high 10 points) joined Seda in double figures for scoring. UTEP connected on 44.7 percent (21-47) from the floor, including 60.0 percent (6-10) from distance, in addition to winning the boards (35-29) but too many turnovers (19) proved costly.
GOING BACK IN TIME (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.
TRACKING THE OPPOSITION
UTEP’s 12 setbacks have come against teams that are a combined 120-64 (65.2 percent) on the season. Eleven of those squads currently have winning records, with 10 sitting in fourth place or better in their respective league standings.
SOME CLOSE CALLS
Six of UTEP’s 12 losses have come by seven points or less, with a pair of one-point setbacks, one by two points, one by four points, one by five points and one by seven points. The Miners have held a lead in seven of the setbacks, including double-digit advantages against both Arkansas State (12/1/18) and at New Mexico (12/5/18).
SECOND-HALF OFFENSIVE SUCCESS
UTEP has been a markedly better team offensively in second-half action this season, as the chart below shows.
UTEP Averages By Half
PTS FG% 3FG% FT% AST TO
FIRST HALF 26.3 38.0 29.6 63.3 6.4 9.4
SECOND HALF 33.2 42.0 34.8 72.6 8.1 7.1
INDIVIDUAL QUICK HITTERS
Jordan Jenkins is one of three Miners with more assists (44) than turnovers (28) … all 29 rebounds have been at the defensive end … started nine of the first 12 games but has come off the bench the past four contests … Jordan Alexander has grabbed a team-high 82 defensive rebounds; no one else on the squad is above 60 … made 10 straight free throws … season-high five turnovers at Rice (1/12/19) … scored at least eight points in two of the past three games, including a season-high 18 at UTSA (1/5/19) … Nine of Neidy Ocuane’s 13 field goals on the year have been from 3-point range … one of three Miners with more assists (24) than turnovers (19) … Zuzanna Puc is the only player on the team to have started every contest … lone Miner to be shooting above 50.0 percent from the floor … held scoreless for the first time of her career at Rice (1/12/19) … team-best 32 offensive boards, which is 10 more than anyone else on the roster … Jade Rochelle is fourth on the team in rebounds per game (4.5 rpg) despite placing seventh in minutes per game (16.5) … lone Miner to have fewer than 1.0 turnovers per contest (0.9) … only player on the squad to have not started at least once this season … earned double digits in playing time in 13 of 15 appearances … Ariona Gill (currently injured) started the first 12 contests before missing the past four tilts with an injury … Sabine Lipe has started four straight games after coming off the bench her first nine appearances … missed the first three contests of the season due to a knee injury … best assist-to-turnover ratio (1.7) on the team … made her only 3-point attempt at Rice (1/12/19); was 2-14 from distance entering the contest to start the season … Alexa Hoy has started two straight games … been nearly perfect (21-25) on free throws … grabbed at least three rebounds in four consecutive contests; had three such efforts over the first 12 games on the year … played 38+ minutes in back-to-back tilts … Ariana Taylor has reached double figures in scoring in back-to-back games for the first time of her career … had season-high six turnovers vs. Western Illinois (12/20/18), but has a combined five giveaways in the five games since … attempted a career-high 11 field goals at Rice (1/12/19) … taken 10+ field goals in back-to-back games after failing to do so once in her first 14 appearances … Katarina Zec earned 30 minutes of playing time at Rice (1/12/19), her highest total since garnering 35 minutes on the floor at New Mexico (12/5/18) … scored seven points against the Owls after tallying a total of two points in the prior two tilts … has grabbed the majority (49 of 60) of her rebounds on defense.
TRENDING WITH THE TEAM
Just concluded playing three straight road games to begin Conference USA action for the first time since also doing so in the 2007-08 campaign … set season lows for field-goals made (13) and field-goals attempted (40) while matching the campaign low for offensive rebounds (six) in the setback at Rice (1/12/19) … back-to-back games with single-digit assists for the first time this season … committed 16 turnovers or less in four of the past five games.
IT’S A QUARTER THING
UTEP has a -5.3 average scoring margin (12.2-17.5) in the first quarter, but it is much more competitive the rest of the way. The average difference is -1.0 (14.1-15.1) in the second quarter, +0.3 in the third quarter (15.9-15.3) and -0.6 (17.3-17.9) in the fourth quarter. Overall on the season the Miners have been outscored by 105 points (953-1058). They are -85 (195-280) in the first quarter, -16 (226-242) in the second quarter, +6 (255-249) in the third quarter and -10 (277-287) in the fourth quarter.
DEFENDING WITHOUT FOULING
The Miners are committing 14.4 fouls per game (first C-USA/27th NCAA), a stark contrast to the 18.8 fpg called on the opposition. One direct impact has been UTEP having advantages in free throws made and attempted. The Miners are 191-277 from the charity stripe compared to their foes standing 163-229.
PUTTING UP THE POINTS
Zuzanna Puc (11.9 ppg, 17th C-USA) Ariona Gill (currently injured, 11.2 ppg), Katarina Zec (7.8 ppg). and Jordan Alexander (7.6 ppg) have been the most consistent scoring threats for the Miners in 2018-19. They are combining for 38.5 of UTEP’s 59.6 points per game on average, with no other player on the squad tallying more than 6.5 ppg. The quartet is responsible for 26 of the 35 double-digit scoring efforts on the campaign. Puc (nine) leads, followed by Gill (seven), Alexander (five) and Zec (five). Ariana Taylor (four), Alexa Hoy (three), Jordan Jenkins (one), Jade Rochelle (one) have the other nine.
SHARING IS CARING
UTEP is producing 14.5 assists per contest (third C-USA), with 232 total helpers (fourth C-USA/82nd NCAA). Jordan Jenkins leads the way at 2.8 assists per game (15th C-USA).
TALKING PLAYING TIME
Every player on the squad is securing better than 10.0 minutes per game, including eight earning at least 15.0 mpg. Ariona Gill (currently injured) tops the squad in playing time (29.0 mpg). Seven of the 10 Miners have appeared in every contest this year, while Jade Rochelle (15 GP, one coaches’ DNP), Sabine Lipe (13 GP, missed first three injured) and Gill (12 GP, missed last four injured) have played in the majority of the 16 games. UTEP has used six different starting line-up combinations, including back-to-back contests with a new look to the line-up.
UTEP IN THE RANKINGS
UTEP is in the upper echelon of C-USA and among the top-100 nationally for fewest fouls per game (14.4, first/27th), fewest total fouls (231, first/47th) and total assists (225, second/69th)
INDIVIDUALS IN THE RANKINGS
Zuzanna Puc is in the C-USA leaders for field-goal percentage (51.7, 10th), points per game (11.9, 17th) and rebounds per game (5.6, 18th). Jordan Alexander checks in the C-USA rankings for defensive rebounds per game (5.1, fifth), 3-point percentage (38.9, ninth) and rebounds per game (6.1, 17th). Katarina Zec rates eighth in the league for 3-point percentage (39.0). Jordan Jenkins is 15th in C-USA for assists per game (2.8) while Ariona Gill (currently injured) is 14th in C-USA in free-throw percentage (67.6).
Zuzanna Puc paces the Miners in scoring (11.9 ppg, 17th C-USA), field-goal percentage (50.0, 10th C-USA), total blocked shots (10), free throws made (36) and attempted (53), offensive rebounds per game (2.0) and double-doubles (three). She has hit double figures in points in a team-high nine occasions (UTEP is 4-5 in those games) and rates second on the squad in rebounding (5.6 rpg, 18th C-USA) and playing time (28.1 mpg). Puc is the only player on the squad to have started all 16 contests.
Jordan Alexander, the lone senior on the squad, has been trying to lead by example. She paces the team in rebounds per game (6.1, 17th C-USA), defensive rebounds per game (5.1, fifth C-USA), 3-pointers made (21), 3-pointers attempted (54). She is also second on the squad in 3-point percentage (38.9). Alexander is also one of four Miners to contribute at least 7.0 points per game (7.6 ppg, fourth on team).
Sophomore Alexa Hoy is starting to come into form, ranking second on the team in scoring (9.7 ppg) over the past six games. She has scored 58 points in the stretch on 43.5 percent shooting (20-46), including 50.0 percent (8-16) from distance. Hoy had a total of 40 points (4.0 ppg) and was held to 23.3 percent (13-56) from the floor, including 12.5 percent (3-24) on 3-point tosses, during the first 10 games of the season.
Freshman Ariana Taylor has made big strides since early in the year. She is tied for second on the squad in scoring (9.5 ppg) over the last eight games. She has contributed 76 points in the sequence while connecting on 43.9 percent (25-57) of her shots, including 44.4 percent (8-18) on 3-point tries. Taylor had 15 points (1.9 ppg) and was limited to 29.4 percent (5-17) shooting, including 14.3 percent (1-7) on triples, over her first seven appearances. She has led the team in scoring in back-to-back contests, reaching double figures in both.
WORTH THE WAIT
Ariona Gill (currently injured), who sat out last year as a redshirt, has proven to be worth the wait. She leads the squad in minutes played (29.0) while starting the first 12 contests before missing the past four games with an injury. She is second on the unit for double-digit scoring games (seven), scoring (11.2 ppg), offensive rebounds per game (1.5) and free throws made (25) and attempted (37). She places third in rebounding (4.9 rpg).
Katarina Zec leads the squad in 3-point percentage (39.0, eighth C-USA), while rating second for 3-pointers made (16), 3-pointers attempted (41) and free-throw percentage (82.8). Zec also is third on the team in scoring (7.8 ppg) and fourth in minutes per game (23.3 mpg). 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 was back among the starters last time out at Rice (1/12/19).
THE BAKER FILE (OVERALL: 365-157, COLLEGE: 143-56, UTEP: 21-26)
Kevin Baker is in his second year (21-26) at the helm of the UTEP women’s basketball team. He is in his 17th year overall (365-157) as a head coach, including his seventh season (143-56) 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 Ammermann (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, 9-2 (2-2 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), 15-6 (4-1 this year) when holding the opponent to below 40.0 percent from the floor, 16-7 (3-3 in ‘18-19) when tied or leading after three quarters and 20-12 (4-3 this year) when winning the boards.
HOME SWEET HOME
UTEP has an all-time home record of 362-224, including standing 2-5 in the Don Haskins Center in 2018-19. The Miners have amassed a record of 164-50 at home since 2006-07, including 97-33 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 145-369 all time on the road, including 1-6 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 63-76 on the road, including 39-45 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 (46), 31st for field goals made (268), 32nd in rebounds (373), 36th in points (652) and 43rd for games played (76). Zec is 16th in games started (65) and 3-pointers made (74), 19th in 3-pointers attempted (217), tied 46th in games played (72) and 48th in points (552).
FOURTH BEST IN TEXAS SINCE 2006-07
The Miners have the fourth-highest winning percentage and fourth-most victories among all DI programs in the state of Texas since 2006-07. Power conference members Baylor (395-54, 88.0%), Texas A&M (322-112, 74.2%) and Texas (276-142, 66.0%) lead the way followed by the Miners (250-146, 63.1%). Lamar (243-146, 62.5%), Stephen F. Austin (239-149, 61.6%), TCU (233-168, 58.1%), Prairie View A&M (208-186, 52.8%), SMU (202-186, 52.1%), and Texas Tech (195-201, 49.2%) round out the top 10.
The Miners are 150-92 since the start of the 2011-12 season (4-12 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 18 separate winning streaks of at least three games (eight such skids), and posted 90 double-digit victories (46 such losses) during that time frame
45 YEARS 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, including 8-1 in El Paso.
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 568-674 in its 45th season as a women’s basketball program, including standing 4-12 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 wraps up its mini two-game homestand by playing host to Middle Tennessee at 1 p.m. MT Saturday. Fans who purchase a ticket for the UAB contests will receive a free ticket for the game against the Blue Raiders. Otherwise tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, and may be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234. Additionally, all popcorn will be $1 in honor of “National Popcorn Day.”
CLIFF NOTES ON THE 2018-19 SEASON
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.