NM State tops UTEP in Battle of I-10


New Mexico State Release

The New Mexico State women’s basketball team raced out to an early lead against UTEP before making clutch shots down the stretch to win its second-straight Battle of I-10 in El Paso, 69-65, on Saturday afternoon. NM State won last year’s meeting 76-68, also in the Sun City.


Although UTEP would get the scoring going with a three at seventh minute mark of the first quarter, the quarter was all Aggies from there. NM State got a three from Brooke Salas to get on the scoreboard before scoring 12 straight points to take a 15-3 lead with 1:56 to go . UTEP then scored two free throws before Salas capped an 18-3 run with a three with 1:15 until the end of the first.


The Miners nailed a three with 17 seconds to play in the period for an 18-8 NM State lead at the intermission. The Aggie defense held UTEP to just 2-13 shooting in the quarter while shooting 50% (7-14).


The second quarter started with a 5-0 UTEP run before New Mexico State responded with a 6-0 run capped by two free throws from Dominique Mills to take a 26-13 lead with 4:32 left in the half. After two Miner free throws, Mills took it to the rim to extend the lead to 28-15. UTEP recorded an and-one and two free throws while Aaliyah Prince drilled a jumper for the Aggies for a 30-22 lead at the half.


NM State’s defense held the Miners to just 6-27 (22.2%) shooting in the first half while making 42.9% (12-28) of its own shots in the half. Dominique Mills and Brooke Salas both had eight for the Aggies at the break.


Coming out of the break, UTEP whittled the lead down to four but Brooke Salas and Dominique Mills scored the next five points to push the lead to 37-28 with 5:35 to play in the third. UTEP again cut the lead to four at 39-35 before a three and a lay in from Gia Pack extended the lead back to nine at 44-35. NM State received a put back from Prince while UTEP made a bucket and a free throw for a 46-38 NM State lead at the end of the third.  


The Miners started the fourth on an 18-10 run to tie the game up at 56 after two free throws with three minutes to play. However, NM State responded with back-to-back threes from Pack and Monique Mills to take a 62-56 lead with 2:02 in the fourth. After UTEP made it 64-61 with 1:08 left, Monique Mills drilled another clutch three out of a timeout for a 67-61 lead with 40 seconds left in regulation. UTEP added two more buckets as did Salas and the Aggies held on for a 69-65 win.


Salas led all scorers with 18 points and added 11 boards to notch her first double-double of the season. Dominique and Monique Mills each added 11 points, Prince nine and Pack eight and four rebounds. Dominique Mills’ 11 tied her career-high for points.


NM State shot 48.3% (28-58) on the night, including 34.8% from three, while holding UTEP to just 35.3% (18-51) from the field. Both sides turned it over 14 times while UTEP held a slight edge in rebounds, 36-33.


The Aggies are back in action when they return home on Tuesday, Nov. 20, to take on Abilene Christian at 6 p.m. (MT).

UTEP Release

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 Saturday afternoon.


The Miners (2-1) dug themselves an 18-5 hole nine minutes into the game, allowing the four-time defending WAC regular-season champion Aggies (3-0) 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.


“We didn’t start out well and got ourselves in a bit of a hole,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “I thought that was the difference in the game because we were fighting over that hump, fighting over that hump, fighting over that hump. I thought that when we tied it up we were in really good shape because we had had so much momentum. The crowd was really doing a great job. But you have to give credit where credit is due. We dared them all night long to make perimeter shots. They made them late. Our hat is off to them today. They played just a little bit better than the Miners today.”


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 finished at 35.3 percent (18-51) from the floor, which was hindered by going 6-27 (22.2 percent)in the first half. The Miners nearly made up for that by going 24-34 (70.6 percent) at the free-throw line, committing a season-low 14 turnovers and winning the boards (36-33), but the Aggies had too much firepower.


Brooke Salas poured in 18 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out a game-high seven helpers to set the tone for her squad. Monique Mills (11 points) and Dominique Mills (11 points) got after it as well. NM State connected on 48.3 percent (28-58) from the floor, including 8-23 from distance.


The Orange and Blue will be back in action when they play host to the seventh-annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic. The event begins with a contest between Texas Southern and Abilene Christian at 1 p.m. MT Friday. The Miners open up the Classic by locking up with Nicholls State at 3:30 p.m. MT Friday.

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