UTEP looks to snap six-game skid

Sports
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The UTEP women’s basketball team (2-6) will lock up against undefeated Portland State (5-0) at 2 p.m. MT Sunday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, and may be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234. It marks the final home game of the calendar year for the Miners, who will be aiming to snap a six-game skid. The first five setbacks came by five points or less for the first time in program history. Most recently UTEP started strong but couldn’t sustain it in an eventual 69-51 defeat at New Mexico (12/5). The Vikings are 5-0 on the year, with each of the victories by double digits at home. PSU has been idle since knocking off Portland, 92-79 (12/1). UTEP is 2-4 on the season at home, while the Vikings will be playing their first road contest of the campaign. The game will be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso with Brandon Cohn and Traci Miller on the call. There will also be a live stream on CUSAtv.com (subscription based). 

GAME FORMAT

NCAA women’s basketball games are played in four 10-minute quarters. Teams reach the bonus and shoot two free throws on the fifth team foul in each quarter. In the four-quarter format, team fouls reset to zero at the start of each frame. Teams have four timeouts (three 30s, one 60), three of which carry over to the second half. They will be able to advance the ball to the frontcourt after a timeout with less than 59.9 seconds in 4Q. There are seven media timeouts (four under five minutes in quarter/first called), two intermission media timeouts (after first and third quarters) and the first team-called timeout during the second half. Bands or amplified music may play during any dead ball.

HE SAID IT (COACH BAKER ON PORTLAND STATE)

“Portland State is big and long and cause problems for people. They’re undefeated on the season, execute well and are just really well coached. They’re pretty good in the halfcourt on offense. They’re constantly moving and making you guard and defend. They’re pretty hard to score again. It’s a pretty simple (formula) but it has been effective for them this year.”

THE SERIES (OVERALL: PSU 1-0;  IN EL PASO: FIRST MEETING)

This is the first meeting between the programs since the 1988-89 season and the second all time. The Miners were upended, 75-71, on the road on Feb. 28, 1989.

GET TO KNOW PORTLAND STATE (5-0 OVERALL; 5-0 HOME; 0-0 ROAD, 0-0 NEUTRAL)

Portland State returned all five starters and 11 letter winners overall from last year’s team (19-13, 11-7 Big Sky). The Vikings are flying high at 5-0 in 2018-19, with its nation-leading field-goal percentage defense (28.3) setting the tone. All five of the victories have been at home and by double digits. PSU is also among the upper echelon of the Big Sky and within the top-100 nationally for assists per game (22.8, first/third), scoring margin (27.0, first/10th), rebounding average (47.6, second/10th), steals per game (13.6, first/10th), turnovers forced (18.0, first/21st), scoring offense (81.4, second/26th), scoring defense (54.4, first/30th), free-throw percentage (76.3, first/35th), blocks per game (4.8, first/37th), 3-point percentage defense (25.2, third/38th), turnover margin (+5.2, second/47th) and rebound margin (+7.4, first/67th). Six different players are putting up at least 6.0 points per game, including four in double figures. Courtney West tops the squad in both scoring (16.7 ppg) and rebounding (8.7 rpg). Ashley Bolston has proven to be dangerous by both her point production (15.6 ppg, eighth Big Sky/170th NCAA) and passing ability (7.4 assists per game, first Big Sky/Sixth NCAA). Sidney Rielly (14.6 ppg) Kylie Jimenez (10.8 ppg) are also in double figures for scoring. Jordan Stotler is impacting games with 2.0 blocks per contest (second Big Sky/40th NCAA) while Pia Jurhar (7.4 rpg, seventh Big Sky) and Bolston (7.0 rpg, ninth Big Sky) have been getting after the boards with Bolston. Portland State’s program was founded for the 1974-75 season and previously competed at the Division II level. It made five appearances at the NCAA DII Championships, qualifying every year from 1991-92 through 1995-96. PSU has one showing in the NCAA DI Big Dance, making the field during the 2009-10 season. Notable university alumni include Courtney Love (singer/musician) and Evan Jager (2016 silver medalist in the steeplechase).

LAST MEETING WITH PSU (AT PORTLAND STATE 75, UTEP 71, FEBRUARY 28, 1989)

Lisa Watson (17 points) led a trio of players in double figures but UTEP was edged at Portland State, 75-71, on Feb. 28, 1989. The Miners led by two (40-38) at the half before the Vikings outscored them, 37-31, the rest of the way to secure the narrow four-point victory. Chris Hall netted 15 points while Sonya Howell contributed 11 points and a team-high eight boards to buoy the play of Watson. UTEP connected on 43.7 percent (31-71) from the floor, and piled up 26 assists on its 31 field goals made. PSU shot 39.0 percent (23-59) from the field and committed 17 turnovers, but it compensated for that through rebounding and free-throw shooting. The Vikings won the battle of the boards (42-31) while going 28-34 at the charity stripe. UTEP was 7-12 on free throws.    

GOING BACK IN TIME (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.

NARROW MARGIN

UTEP’s six losses have been by a total of 31 points. The first five were by the smallest combined differential (13 points) during a five-game skid at the school before the Miners were upended at New Mexico (12/5) by 18 points. Overall UTEP has a +1 (500-499) differential on the season. 

QUICK HITTERS

Jordan Jenkins has posted at least five assists in three different games this year to surpass her total of such contests (two) from 2017-18. Jenkins played a career-high 35 minutes while matching her personal best for 3-pointers made (two) at New Mexico (12/5). Jordan Alexander has grabbed at least eight boards in three straight games for the first time of her career. Alexander is 10-25 from distance; she was 11-40 on treys last season. Zuzanna Puc has drilled at least 50.0 percent from the floor in six of eight games, including sinking 56.3 percent (9-16) last time out at New Mexico (12/5). Jade Rochelle is accounting for 6.0 ppg and 7.0 rpg the past three games. She was at 1.5 ppg and 2.0 rpg in the first five contests. Sabine Lipe nailed her first career 3-pointer at UNM (12/5). Ariana Taylor sports more offensive boards (seven) than defensive (six). Katarina Zec dished out a season-high five dimes at UNM (12/5).

TRENDING WITH THE TEAM

UTEP has dished out at least 15 assists in five straight games, the longest such stretch in nonconference play since also doing so in 2010-11. The Miners held New Mexico (12/5) to its lowest scoring output (69 points) of the season. Foes are a combined 9-43 (20.9 percent) from 3-point range the past two contests, a stark drop from the combined 24-49 (49.0 percent)  by Abilene Christian (11/24) and Weber State (11/28). UTEP blocked eight shots against Arkansas State (12/1). It has eight rejections total in the other seven games.

DEFENDING WITHOUT FOULING

The Miners are committing 14.0 fouls per game (first C-USA/19th NCAA), a stark contrast to the 19.0 fpg called on the opposition. Helping UTEP’s foul average was being whistled for 11 personal fouls or less in three consecutive contests. (11/23-11/28) for the first time in program history. One direct impact has been UTEP having more makes at the free throw line than opponent attempts. The Miners are 94-137 from the charity stripe compared to their foes standing 75-106. 

PUTTING UP THE POINTS

Zuzanna Puc (14.3 ppg, 10th C-USA) leads the way offensively for the Miners, followed by Ariona Gill (11.9 ppg, tied 19th C-USA) and Katarina Zec (9.8 ppg). The trio is responsible for 15 of the 20 double-digit scoring efforts on the season. Puc leads the way with six followed Gill (five) and Zec (four). Jordan Alexander (three), Alexa Hoy (one) and Jordan Jenkins (one) round out the list. 

SHARING IS CARING

UTEP is producing 17.0 assists per contest (second C-USA/33rd NCAA). Jordan Jenkins leads the way at 3.6 assists per game (eighth C-USA/227th NCAA). UTEP’s assist-to-turnover ratio stands at +1.05 (second C-USA/57th NCAA). The Miners have posted at least 20 assist in three different games to match the total such efforts in 2017-18.

TALKING PLAYING TIME

Eight different players have appeared in every contest this year. Zuzanna Puc (31.4 mpg), Ariona Gill (31.3) and Katarina Zec (27.6 mpg) have started all eight games while Jordan Alexander (24.9 mpg) has seven starts. 

TRACKING THE OPPOSITION

UTEP’S opponents have a combined win/loss record of 32-27 on the season, aided by match-ups against New Mexico (7-1) and Abilene Christian (7-1). That mark will improve with Sunday’s match-up, as Portland State enters at 5-0 on the season

UTEP IN THE RANKINGS

UTEP is in the upper echelon of C-USA and among the top-100 nationally for fewest fouls per game (14.0, first/19th), assists per game (17.0, second/33rd) and assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.05, second/57th).

INDIVIDUALS IN THE RANKINGS

Zuzanna Puc is in the C-USA/NCAA rankings in field-goal percentage (59.3, fifth/26th), field goals made (48, sixth/115th) and rebounds per game (7.0, seventh/230th). She is also appears in the league leaders for offensive boards per game (2.8, sixth), blocks per game (0.8, tied 12th), points per game (14.3, tied 10th) and minutes per game (31.4, tied 10th).  Jordan Jenkins is among the league/national rankings for assist-to-turnover ratio (1.9, seventh/112th) and assists per game (3.6, eighth, 227th).Jordan Alexander checks in the C-USA rankings for 3-point percentage (40.0, 13th), defensive rebounds per game (4.9, tied eighth) and rebounds per game (6.0, tied 14th). Katarina Zec is sixth in the league for free-throw percentage (90.5) while Ariona Gill is tied for 19th in C-USA in scoring (11.9 ppg).

QUARTER BREAKDOWN

UTEP’S best quarter has been the third (+19, 137-118) while it also has a positive differential in the fourth (+6, 150-144). The Miners have either won (17) or been even (five) in 22 of the 32 quarters this year. UTEP has been outscored in 10 quarters this season, including just nine times out of 24 quarters during the current six-contest skid. UTEP is 17-4 in games that it has won three of the quarters since the NCAA switched to the format for the 2015-16 season. The breakdown is 0-1 in 2018-19, 5-1 in 2017-18, 1-1 in 2016-17 and 11-1 in 2015-16.

PUC POWER

Zuzanna Puc paces the Miners in scoring (14.3 ppg, 10th C-USA), rebounding (7.0 rpg, seventh C-USA/230th NCAA), field-goal percentage (59.3, fifth C-USA/26th NCAA), playing time (31.4, tied 10th C-USA) and double-doubles (two). She is the lone player on the squad to have tallied at least eight points per contest, and has the most double-digit scoring efforts (six) by a Miner this year. 

WORTH THE WAIT

Ariona Gill, who sat out last year as a redshirt, has proven to be worth the wait. She shares the team lead for free throws attempted (26) and is second on the second for scoring (11.9 ppg), playing time (31.3 mpg), offensive rebounds (12) and free throws made (18) and steals. She places fourth in rebounding (4.3 rpg).

THE BAKER FILE (OVERALL: 363-151, COLLEGE: 141-50, UTEP: 19-20)

Kevin Baker is in his second year (19-20) at the helm of the UTEP women’s basketball team. He is in his 17th year overall (363-151) as a head coach, including his seventh season (141-50) 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.

CHANCE AT MORE HISTORY

If the Miners can finish above .500 (currently 2-6) Kevin Baker would become the first coach in program history to post winning records in each of their opening two seasons. Carol Ammermann went 11-5 in 1974-75, but slipped to 6-11 the ensuing year. Baker is the eighth head coach in program history.

WINNING NUMBERS UNDER BAKER

The Miners are 8-2 under Kevin Baker ( 1-2 this year) when shooting at least 50 percent from the floor. Other notable records in the Baker era include being 14-6 (1-2 in ‘18-19) when tied or leading after three quarters, 9-1 (1-0 this year) when scoring 70+ points and 8-3 (1-2 this season) when drilling better than 40 percent from 3-point range (min. four makes)

HOME SWEET HOME

UTEP has an all-time home record of 362-223, including standing 2-4 in the Don Haskins Center in 2018-19. The Miners have amassed a record of 164-49 at home since 2006-07, including 97-32 since 2011-12. Aiding that 97-32 mark was a school-record (winning percentage) 19-1 home record in 2015-16. UTEP has been particularly strong in nonconference play, standing 82-16 in the Sun City in such contests since 2006-07. 

TRAVEL TIME

UTEP is 144-365 all time on the road, including 0-2 thus far in 2018-19. When playing at a neutral site the Miners stand 60-79, including 3-1 last year. Since the start of the 2006-07 season UTEP is 60-70 on the road, including 36-39 since 2011-12. 

CAREER ACHIEVEMENTS

UTEP juniors Zuzanna Puc and Katarina Zec are starting to sprinkle their names in the UTEP career records. Zec is 18th in 3-pointers made (69) and games started (58), 20th in 3-pointers attempted (208) and 51st in points (506). Puc is 12th in blocked shots (42), 34th for field goals made (240) and 43rd in points (576).

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 (389-53, 88.0%), Texas A&M (314-110, 74.1%) and Texas (269-141, 65.6%) lead the way followed by the Miners (248-140, 63.9%). Lamar (237-146, 61.9%), Stephen F. Austin (233-148, 61.2%), TCU (228-165, 58.0%), Prairie View A&M (206-180, 53.4), SMU (201-180, 52.8%), and Texas Tech (190-198, 49.0%) round out the top 10. 

SPECIAL RUN

The Miners are 148-86 since the start of the 2011-12 season (2-6 this year), with 88 double-digit victories in that time frame. 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 15 separate winning streaks of at least three games 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 added six newcomers (Eliana Cabral, freshman guard, Alexa Hoy, sophomore guard, Sabine Lipe, freshman guard, Jade Rochelle, junior guard/forward, Conchi Satorre, freshman point guard 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.  

INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR

Half (6-12) of the Miners’ roster in 2018-19 is comprised of international players. It is the largest such ratio (50 percent) in program history Eliana Cabral (Portugal), Sabine Lipe (Latvia), Neidy Ocuane (Mozambique), Zuzanna Puc (Poland), Conchi Satorre (Spain) and Katarina Zec (Serbia) give UTEP a distinct international flavor this season. 

TEXAS STRONG

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 features 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 566-668 in its 45th season as a women’s basketball program, including standing 2-6 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). 

NEXT UP

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 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.

CLIFF NOTES ON THE 2018-19 SEASON

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.

BLOCK PARTY

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.

BOMBS AWAY

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.

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