EL PASO, Texas – Mahri Petree scored a career-high 24 points as UTEP rolled to an 83-55 season opening win over New Orleans on Monday night in the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners (1-0) capitalized on multiple large runs on the night, starting as early as the first quarter. In that opening quarter, UTEP turned a 14-9 deficit into a 16-14 advantage, capping the run with an Eliana Cabral transition basket that came courtesy of a Jazion Jackson steal and assist.
Jackson contributed in a variety of ways from the point guard position, scoring four points to go along with eight assists and six steals. For Jackson, the eight assists tied a career high and the six steals set a new personal best, eclipsing the five she had in 2020 at Middle Tennessee while playing for North Texas.
It would go on to be a career night for Cabral as well, who netted a new personal best with 15 points to pair with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Petree compiled her 24 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the floor and a perfect 11-of-11 effort at the free throw line. The 11 made free throws was also a career high. Petree added five rebounds and three steals.
“That game was fun,” Petree said. “We put a lot of work into our preseason, and I think it just came together tonight. It was just fun to play with my team and play together. It felt like we were playing like a fist instead of five fingers, and that’s really fun basketball.”
With the Privateers (0-1) leading 23-19 with 4:45 left in the first half, the Miners would respond with an 18-2 run heading into the break. The rally was a result of ramping up the pressure and forcing a host of New Orleans turnovers.
Over that stretch, UTEP forced six turnovers on the way to tallying 33 for the game, tied for the ninth most in a contest in program history.
The Miners never trailed the rest of the way, building the lead to as large as 30 points.
UTEP called a timeout in response to a 5-0 start to the fourth quarter by New Orleans that cut the lead to 16 at 61-45 with 8:56 remaining. Following the timeout, the Miners rattled off 14 points in a row while going on to outscore the Privateers 22-10 throughout the remainder of the game.
“I was really pleased with the defensive effort overall,” UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker said. “Of course, we needed to turn them over 21 times in the first half because we just didn’t have our motors quite running. In the second half we only got 11 more, but we actually pressed better because we pressed into our defense, and I liked watching our defense a lot better in the second half than the first. Getting all those turnovers is nice, but I just thought we played so much better defense in the third and in the fourth, so I was pleased there.”
Four Miners posted double-digit scoring outputs, led by the career efforts from Petree and Cabral. Additionally, Elina Arike contributed 12 points, five rebounds and two steals while Sabine Lipe added 10 points and a pair of steals.
“I think we have a talented team that can score,” Baker said. “We can score from the inside or the outside. We can do a lot of things. I am proud of them.”
Lipe and Grace Alvarez were key off the bench, hitting two 3-pointers each.
“You talk about buying into your role like Mahri has, Grace and Sabine have too,” Baker said. “They know their role. They know what is expected of them when they come off the bench, and they can both shoot it. Basketball is a game of role players really, and when you have some people who are willing to buy into that role, it looks really good. Grace and Sabine are going to have fantastic years. In case anybody forgot what Sabine does for our team, she’s all over the floor, she’s diving and she’s a blue-collar worker. Most people remember the 3’s, but really, it’s everything else for her.”
UTEP went 26-of-60 (43.3 percent) from the field, highlighted by an 8-of-12 mark in the third quarter. The Miners would bury 40 percent of their shots from distance, going 8-of-20 from beyond the arc. A 23-of-30 (76.7 percent) night from the free throw line helped to build separation from New Orleans, which went 21-of-44 (47.7 percent) from the floor.
Next up for the Miners is a trip to Kansas City for a game against the Roos on Sunday at noon MT/1 p.m. CT.