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 Wednesday.
The Miners (2-6) bolted out to a 19-10 advantage through 10 minutes of action, with Puc single-handily matching the Lobos (6-1) 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.
“We played at a very high level. There are not many teams that are going to hold them to 69 points,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “We played really, really well (in the first quarter). They’re a team of runs but even when they made them I still felt good with the way that we were playing.”
Aisia Robertson tallied 20 points to go along with five rebound and six assists to set the tone for the Lobos. UTEP did, though, harass her into committing eight of UNM’s 11 giveaways in the game. She was joined in double figures for scoring by Jayla Everett (14 points) and Jaisa Nunn (12 points). The Lobos finished at 42.0 percent (29-69) from the field, including just 19.2 percent (5-26) from 3-point range.
After both teams scored early, the Miners blitzed the Lobos with 13 straight points to grab a 15-2 advantage midway through the first quarter. UNM ended the surge with a couple of free throws, and managed to climb within nine (19-10) through 10 minutes of action. Puc was instrumental to UTEP’s strong start, tallying 10 of its 19 points in the frame.
The differential remained in double figures (23-13, 6:50 2Q) early on in the second quarter before the home side finally got on track. The Lobos closed out the frame on an 18-4 push to put the Miners down by four (31-27) heading into halftime.
Puc got a basket on UTEP’s opening possession of the second half to make it a two-point tilt (31-29, 9:07 3Q). The Lobos got a couple of scores to extend the margin to six (37-31), but a transition trey by Katarina Zec cut the deficit in half (37-34) midway through the quarter. UNM struck back in the form of a 9-2 push, affording it a 10-point advantage (46-36) heading to the final frame.
Zec found Puc for a nice lay-up to get the Miners within single digits (46-38, 9:22 4Q) early in the fourth quarter. The Lobos responded with a mini 5-0 run, and UTEP couldn’t climb closer than 10 the rest of the way.
The Orange and Blue will be back in action at home against undefeated (5-0) Portland State at 2 p.m. MT Sunday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, and may be purchased by calling 915-747-5234.