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 Sunday afternoon.
Jade Rochelle (career-high 11 points) and Ariana Taylor (career-high 10 points) came off the bench to provide a spark for the Miners (2-7), who played the second half without leading scorer and rebound Zuzanna Puc. Jordan Alexander added eight points and eight boards, but the Vikings (6-0) 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.
“Anytime you give up 89 points you’re not going to win many games,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “I’m really disappointed in our performance. I don’t want to take anything away from Portland State. They’re a really good team and do a lot of really tough things. I just was really disappointed in the product as a whole today. I think we’re a much better basketball team than the way we played today.”
There was plenty of offense to go around at the onset of the contest, with a 3-pointer by Alexander putting the Miners ahead by two (13-11) midway through the first quarter. PSU countered with a 6-0 push to go ahead by four (17-13, 4:01 1Q), but a pair of free throws by Puc put an end to that. It remained a two-point differential (19-17 2:25 1Q) in favor of the Vikings before they tallied the final seven points of the frame to lead by nine (26-17) after 10 minutes of action.
The run continued into the second stanza, with the visitors eventually extending their cushion to 16 (35-19, 5:13 2Q). The Miners started to chip away at the deficit, inching within 11 (41-30, 00:37 2Q) late in the frame. Much to the chagrin of the Orange and Blue faithful, PSU’s Jimenez drilled a pull-up 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and give her squad a 44-30 advantage going into the locker room.
The Vikings connected on a triple on their opening possession of the third quarter, affording them their largest lead (47-30) of the game to that point. UTEP regrouped and responded by peeling off five consecutive points to reduce the margin to 12 (47-35, 7:02 3Q). It remained a 12-point contest (51-39, 5:24 3Q) before PSU uncorked an 11-1 run to vault out by 22 (62-40, 2:22 3Q). A pair of free throws by Rochelle ended the sequence, but the damage had been done. The margin was 23 (66-43) heading to the final frame, and UTEP couldn’t get any closer the rest of the way.
UTEP will be idle for finals week before returning to action at Pacific-12 member Arizona at 6:30 p.m. MT on Dec. 17. The contest will be the beginning of a long stretch without a home game. The Miners will have five road tilts and a pair of neutral-site contests before returning to the Don Haskins Center on Jan. 17, 2019.