UTEP to host Alcorn State in season opener


The UTEP women’s basketball team (0-0) will christen its 2018-19 season when it plays host to Alcorn State (0-1) at 7 p.m. at the Don Haskins Center on Saturday. Fans who purchase a ticket to the UTEP football team’s match-up vs. Middle Tennessee (1 p.m.) on Saturday may also use the ticket for admission into the contest against Alcorn State. Otherwise tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, and may be bought by calling (915) 747-5234. The contest will be broadcast on KROD.com with Brandon Cohn and Traci Miller on the call. There will also be a live stream on CUSAtv.com (subscription based). 


UTEP is 24-20 all time in season openers, including 20-7 when doing so in El Paso. Overall in home openers, the Miners stand 27-14 (missing outcomes in some years). They are 1-0 under Kevin Baker in season lidlifters.


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.



Alcorn State is predicted to finish eighth in the SWAC preseason poll. The Lady Braves were 12-18 overall a year ago, including 8-10 in league action to stake sixth place. Alcorn lost its top-four leading scorers from 2017-18, but brought in eight newcomers (four freshmen, four JUCO transfers). Alcorn State opened up its season by falling at home to Lane College, 70-58, on Nov. 6. Toddriana Isler (18 points, 12 rebounds), Jada Hargrove (11 points, six boards, five assists) and Charisma Walker (10 points, eight rebounds) led the way. It finished 20-68 (29.4 percent) from the floor, which was hindered by going 1-15 (.067 percent) from beyond-the-arc. Last year Alcorn led the SWAC in 3-pointers per game (5.8) while rating second in 3-point percentage (29.8), steals per game (11.4) and offensive rebounds per game (14.7). Alcorn State University is a public land grant university located in Lorman, Miss. It was founded in 1871 as the nation’s first state supported higher education institution for African American students. Notable alumni include the late actor Michael Clarke Duncan, who gained notoriety for his leading role in the movie The Green Mile and the late famed author Alex Haley, who penned the novel Roots (later turned into the nation-sweeping TV miniseries).


“We know they’re going to be athletic. They’re going to be fast and will crash the boards hard. They’re the typical Alcorn State team.”


UTEP leads the all-time series with Alcorn State, 3-1. The Lady Braves won the first meeting between the programs, 68-47, in a neutral-site contest on Dec. 18, 1999. The Miners have won the past three meetings, including a 63-53 result most recently on Dec. 28, 2014. Each of those tilts have been played in El Paso.


Cameasha Turner scored 13 points to lead a trio of players in double figures, and UTEP held off a feisty and upset-minded Alcorn State squad, 63-53, at the Don Haskins Center on Dec. 28, 2014. There were eight ties and 12 lead changes, but UTEP emerged on top thanks to a 9-0 run midway through the second stanza that changed the momentum of the game. The surge put the Miners up, 43-37, with 8:31 to play, and they never relinquished the advantage. With nearly identical shooting percentages (UTEP 40.4, 21-of-52 & Alcorn State 40.0, 20-of-50), free-throw shooting and turnovers proved to be important factors. The Miners had the upper hand in each area, drilling 78.3 percent (18-of-23) from the charity stripe while also forcing Alcorn State into 23 turnovers. The visitors hit just 69.2 (9-of-13) at the line and also were whistled for 25 fouls in the contest. 


UTEP tuned up for the 2018-19 season with a pair of exhibition games against NCAA Division II programs. The Miners downed Western New Mexico, 66-45, on Oct. 27, and dispatched St. Mary’s (Texas), 70-51, on Nov. 4. Jordan Alexander (17 points, six rebounds) and Ariona Gill (14 points, rebounds) set the tone in the win vs. WNMU. Zuzanna Puc pitched in nine points and six boards while Jordan Jenkins added seven points and three assists. The Miners led by 15 (20-5) after the first quarter, and they were never truly threatened the rest of the way. Puc (15 points), Alexander (13 points, six rebounds) and Katarina Zec (10 points, four assists) set the tone in the victory vs. St. Mary’s. Once again the Orange and Blue started strong, racing out to a 22-8 lead on the way to the 19-point win. UTEP drilled better than 44.0 percent from the floor in both contests while holding each of its foes to less than 31 percent shooting. It also forced 18+ turnovers in each tilt. All 10 Miners earned at least seven minutes of playing time in both games, but no one played more than 30 minutes.


The 2018-19 season marks the 45th in program history. The 1974-75 squad, the inaugural one at UTEP, will be honored at the Miners’ FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10 game against NM State (Nov. 17). UTEP downed the Aggies, 63-49, on Dec. 16, 1974, in the first meeting between the programs. It also served as the initial home contest in school history. That year’s team went on to finish at 11-5, including 8-1 in El Paso. 


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.  


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. 


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.


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. 


UTEP has 29 games on tap in the 2018-19 regular season, including 15 slated to be played at the Don Haskins Center. The Miners will compete in a pair of tournaments (Seventh-Annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic and Las Vegas Christmas Shootout) during nonconference action. UTEP will also face both NM State (Nov. 17-home) and New Mexico (Dec. 5-road), in addition to Pacific-12 member Arizona (Dec. 17-road) and former C-USA foe Tulsa (Dec. 29-road). There are 16 C-USA games on the docket. The 2019 C-USA Championships will be held at The Star in Frisco, Texas, for the second straight year, with the winner clinching the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

THE BAKER FILE (OVERALL: 361-145, COLLEGE: 139-44, UTEP: 17-14)

Kevin Baker is in his second year (17-14) at the helm of the UTEP women’s basketball team. He is in his 17th year overall (361-145) as a head coach, including his seventh season (139-44) 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.


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 mark 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.


Kevin Baker has the opportunity to continue his record-setting ways in 2018-19. If the Miners can finish above .500, 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. 


UTEP is 564-662 in its 45th season as a women’s basketball program, including finishing 17-14 in 2017-18). 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.


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 (382-53, 87.8%), Texas A&M (309-108, 74.1%) and  Texas (262-140, 65.2%) lead the way followed by the Miners (246-134, 64.7%). Lamar (232-142, 62.0%), Stephen F. Austin (227-146, 60.9%), TCU (222-164, 57.5%), Prairie View A&M (203-178, 53.3), SMU (196-176, 52.7%), and Texas Tech (185-196, 48.6%-10th) round out the top 10. 


The Miners are 146-80 since the start of the 2011-12 season, with 85 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. 


UTEP has an all-time home record of 360-219, including going 9-5 in the Don Haskins Center in 2017-18. The Miners have amassed a record of 161-45 at home since 2006-07, including 94-28 since 2011-12. Aiding that 94-28 mark was a school-record (winning percentage) 19-1 home record in 2015-16. UTEP has been particularly strong in nonconference play, standing 80-12 in the Sun City in such contests since 2006-07. 


UTEP is 144-363 all time on the road, including finishing 5-8 in 2017-18. 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 60-68 on the road, including 36-37 since 2011-12.


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.


The Miners sported the second-best rebounding margin (+7.9) in program history in 2017-18. UTEP won the boards on average, 39.2-31.3. The effort trailed only the 2011-12 squad, which boasted a +9.5 margin (44.2-34.7)


The Orange and Blue showed off good shot selection in 2017-18, finishing with the second-highest shooting percentage (.435) in a season at UTEP in program history. The Miners drilled 710-1632 from the floor. Only the 1980-81 unit (.450) shot it better. 


UTEP was locked in at the charity stripe in 2017-18, connecting on the second-highest percentage (.735) from the line in school history. The Miners connected on 435-587 free throws last year, which trailed only the efforts of the 2002-03 unit (.746).


UTEP finished 7-5 in games decided by five points or less in 2017-18, which set the school standard for the most such victories in a season in program history. 


Fans are encouraged to connect with the Miners on Facebook (UTEP Women’s Basketball), Instagram (@utepwbb) and Twitter (@UTEPWBB). 

Next up

UTEP will continue its season-opening five-game homestand when it plays host to CSU Bakersfield at 7 p.m. on Nov. 14. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, and may be purchased by calling 915-747-5234.

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