THE OPENING TIP
The UTEP women's basketball team (2-8) will take part in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic at South Point Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., on Thursday and Friday. The Miners will play two games in as many days in the event, facing Western Illinois (3-8) at 2:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. MT Thursday and Akron (6-2) at 5 p.m. PT/6 p.m. MT Friday. Both contests will be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso with Steve Kaplowitz on the call. They will also both be streamed online through a Vimeo Live Stream. It marks the fourth straight year and the fifth time in the past six seasons that UTEP will take part in a Pre-Festivus tournament or classic. The Miners are in the midst of an eight-game skid, including falling at Arizona, 62-40, on Dec. 17. The Fighting Leathernecks have lost three consecutive contests, including their most-recent 86-61 setback to Northern Illinois on Dec. 8. The Zips have won three of their past four games, including most-recently toppling Canisius, 62-53, on Dec. 16.
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 WESTERN ILLINOIS)
"They play a 1-3-1 zone and run motion on offense. They're big and they shoot a lot of 3-pointers. Last year they were one of the top scoring offenses in the country, but they graduated pretty hard. They're still figuring out who they are this year. They've struggled a little bit, but they do what they do and will be a tough matchup for us."
THE SERIES (OVERALL: FIRST MEETING)
Thursday's contest is the first between UTEP and Western Illinois.
GET TO KNOW WESTERN ILLINOIS (3-8 OVERALL; 3-2 HOME; 0-4 ROAD, 0-2 NEUTRAL)
Western Illinois finished 22-10 last year and played in the WNIT, but returned just one starter and six letter winners overall from that squad. With a new-look team, it has been a different story thus far in 2018-19. WIU enters the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic at 3-8 on the season. That record has been impacted by an inability to win away from home. The Fighting Leathernecks are 3-2 when playing on LeRoy A. Ufkes Court at Western Hall but 0-6 (0-4 road, 0-2 neutral) the rest of the time. WIU is in the midst of a three-game losing skid but is well rested, having last played on Dec. 8. It makes a living from downtown, ranking third in the country for 3-pointers attempted (343) and seventh nationally for triples made (104). WIU also sits in the upper echelon of the Summit League and among the top-100 in the NCAA for turnovers forced per game (24.3, first/fifth), free throws made (162, first/15th), 3-pointers per contest (6.7, second/17th), free throws attempted (222, first/23rd), steals per game (12.2, first/24th), fewest fouls per game (15.4, third/54th), free-throw percentage (73.0, fifth/72nd) and scoring offense (72.9, fourth/81st). Olivia Kaufmann (14.4 ppg) and Taylor Higginbotham (12.0 ppg) are in double figures for scoring average but six other players chip in between 5.0-9.8 ppg. Higginbotham is the top rebounder (6.8 rpg) while sharing the squad lead in steals per game (2.27, first SL/107th NCAA) with Kaufmann. Elizabeth Lutz paces the team in 3-pointers made (18) and attempted (60, seventh SL/147th NCAA). The university was established in 1899, and first fielded a team for women's basketball in 1903. The team quickly became the most integral part of the athletics program during the early years, gaining the most interest from the student body and playing outside colleges to earn money for the men's track suits, basketball uniforms and other equipment. It has competed at the Division I level since 1971-72, and has made six postseason appearances (two NCAA, three WNIT and one WBI). Notable university alumni include the late John Mahoney (actor, Frasier) and David Bowens (NFL linebacker 1999-2010, concluding his career with the Cleveland Browns).
GOING BACK IN TIME (AT ARIZONA 62, UTEP 40, 12/17/18)
UTEP held Arizona to its lowest scoring total of the season but turnovers and not enough shots falling loomed large in a 62-40 road setback inside the McKale Center on Dec. 17. RS-Junior Ariona Gill (11 points) and senior Jordan Alexander (10 points) hit double figures in scoring to pace the Miners, who limited the Wildcats to 17 points below their season average (78.6 ppg). UTEP also won the boards (36-31) but couldn't get into a good rhythm consistently against the homestanding Wildcats. The Miners finished at 36.6 (15-41) percent from the floor, but of greater concern were the 19 turnovers that resulted in 23 points for the home side. It was a different story for UA, which had only nine giveaways and shot 40.9 percent (25-61) from the field. Freshman Ariana Taylor provided a spark off the bench with eight points and a career-high tying four rebounds in 14 minutes of action. Fellow classmate Sabine Lipe added a career-best five points, including a fancy old-fashioned 3-point play in transition.
PLAYING HARD TO THE END
Arizona led by 21 (38-17) at the first half and was up by 34 (62-28) with 5:40 remaining in regulation. Even with the outcome decided, the Miners showed tremendous character by closing the contest on a 12-0 run. The effort resulted in UA finishing with the fewest second-half points (24) by a Miner opponent on the season.
PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
UTEP has dropped eight straight games for the first time since the 2001-02 campaign (lost final 18 games), but it faced quality opposition. The eight losses have come against teams that are currently a combined 50-22 on the season, with the past three opponents standing a staunch 25-2.
SECOND-HALF OFFENSIVE SUCCESS
UTEP has been a markedly better team offensively in second-half action this season, as the chart below shows.
UTEP Averages By Half
PTS FG% 3FG% FT% AST TO
FIRST HALF 26.0 37.2 25.6 64.3 6.9 9.2
SECOND HALF 34.1 42.3 33.3 71.2 9.2 7,4
INDIVIDUAL QUICK HITTERS
Jordan Jenkins has more than twice as many assists (35) as turnovers (17) ... started four straight games ... all 21 rebounds have been at the defensive end ... Jordan Alexander has pulled down seven or more rebounds in five consecutive contests ... nailed 14-35 from 3-point range after finishing 11-40 on treys last year ... 52 of her 63 rebounds have been at the defensive end ... six of the eight field goals on the season by Neidy Ocuane have been from 3-point range ... Zuzanna Puc is six rebounds shy of hitting 350 or her career ... nailed at least 50.0 percent from the floor in six of 10 games ... made 17-20 at charity stripe over past eight games after going 4-10 to start season ... Jade Rochelle has combined for 29 points and 30 rebounds the past five games; pitched in six points and eight boards the first five (one DNP) ... accounted for three of UTEP's seven offensive rebounds at Arizona (12/17/18) ... Ariona Gill has grabbed at least six rebounds in back-to-back games for the first time of her career ... 5-11 from distance the past four games; started year 4-16 from downtown ... Sabine Lipe scored a career-high five points at Arizona (12/17/18) ... all seven rebounds have been at the defensive end ... 5-7 on 2-point shots and 1-5 from distance ... Alexa Hoy has been nearly perfect (11-12) on free throws this season ... lone reserve to play at least 10 minutes in every contest ... Ariana Taylor has combined for 18 points the past two games to surpass her scoring total (15 points) over the first eight tilts ... drilled a combined 6-12 from the floor and 6-9 at the charity stripe during the hot streak ... earned a career-best tying 14 minutes in back-to-back games ... Katarina Zec has sunk 10 straight free throws and is 19-21 overall on the season ...hasn't attempted a 3-point shot in consecutive games for the first time of her career ... made 3-5 from the floor over the past two games.
TRENDING WITH THE TEAM
UTEP held Arizona (12/17/18) to its lowest scoring output (62 points) of the year and 17 points below its seasonal scoring average (78.6 ppg) ... registered campaign lows for both field-goal attempts (41) and 3-point attempts (11) against the Wildcats ... kept eight of 10 opponents to less than 70 points ... committed 14 fouls or fewer in eight games.
DEFENDING WITHOUT FOULING
The Miners are committing 13.8 fouls per game (first C-USA/18th NCAA), a stark contrast to the 18.8 fpg called on the opposition. One direct impact has been UTEP having advantages in free throws made and attempted. The Miners are 119-174 from the charity stripe compared to their foes standing 92-128.
PUTTING UP THE POINTS
Zuzanna Puc (12.4 ppg, 15th C-USA) Ariona Gill (12.3 ppg, 16th C-USA) and Katarina Zec (8.4 ppg). and Jordan Alexander (7.4 ppg) have been the most consistent scoring threats for the Miners in 2018-19. They are combining for 40.5 of UTEP's 60.1 points per game on average, with no other player on the squad tallying more than 4.0 ppg. The quartet is responsible for 21 of the 25 double-digit scoring efforts on the campaign. Alexa Hoy (one), Jordan Jenkins (one), Jade Rochelle (one) and Ariana Taylor (one) have the other four.
SHARING IS CARING
UTEP is producing 16.1 assists per contest (second C-USA/52nd NCAA). Jordan Jenkins leads the way at 3.5 assists per game (ninth C-USA/243rd NCAA). UTEP's assist-to-turnover ratio stands at 0.97 (third C-USA/91st NCAA), aided by Jenkins's team-leading ratio of +2.1 (sixth C-USA/93rd NCAA).
TALKING PLAYING TIME
Eight of the 10 Miners have appeared in every contest this year, while Jade Rochelle(nine) and Sabine Lipe (seven) have played in the majority of the 10 games. Ariona Gill (30.4, 11th C-USA), Zuzanna Puc (29.6 mpg) and Katarina Zec (26.1 mpg) have started every contest. Jordan Alexander (26.7 mpg) has nine starts and Jordan Jenkins (24.3 mpg) has seven. No other Miner has more than three starts. Seven players log at least 10.0 minutes per game, and every individual is securing better than 8.0 mpg.
TRACKING THE OPPOSITION
UTEP'S opponents have a combined win/loss record of 55-35 (.611) on the season, with that percentage aided by having faced Arizona (9-1), Portland State (8-0), New Mexico (8-1) and Abilene Christian (7-3). Overall seven of UTEP's 10 opponents currently sport a winning percentage of .500 or better.
UTEP IN THE RANKINGS
UTEP is in the upper echelon of C-USA and among the top-100 nationally for fewest fouls per game (13.8, first/18th), assists per game (16.1, second/52nd) and assist-to-turnover ratio (0.97, third/91st).
INDIVIDUALS IN THE RANKINGS
Zuzanna Puc is in the C-USA/NCAA rankings in field-goal percentage (56.7, third/37th). She is also appears in the league leaders for blocks per game (0.9, ninth), offensive rebounds per game (2.2, ninth) and points per game (12.4, 15th). Jordan Jenkins places in the league/national rankings for assist-to-turnover ratio (2.1, sixth/93rd) and assists per game (3.5, ninth/243rd). Jordan Alexander checks in the C-USA rankings for defensive rebounds per game (5.2, eighth), 3-point percentage (40.0, tied 13th), and rebounds per game (6.3, 13th). Ariona Gill has a spot in the C-USA leaders for minutes per game (30.4, 11th) and scoring (12.3, 16th). Katarina Zec is sixth in the league for free-throw percentage (90.5).
Zuzanna Puc paces the Miners in scoring (12.4 ppg, 15th C-USA), blocked shots (0.9 bpg, ninth C-USA), field-goal percentage (56.7, third C-USA/37th NCAA), offensive rebounds per game (2.4, ninth C-USA) and double-doubles (two). She is second on the squad in rebounding (6.0 rpg), playing time (29.5 mpg) and double-digit scoring efforts (six).
WORTH THE WAIT
Ariona Gill, who sat out last year as a redshirt, has proven to be worth the wait. She leads the squad in minutes played (30.4, 11th C-USA), free throws made (24) and attempted (35) and double-digit scoring games (seven). Gill is second on the second for scoring (12.3 ppg, 16th C-USA), offensive rebounds per game (1.6). She places third in rebounding (5.2 rpg).
Katarina Zec ranks second on the team in 3-pointers made (11), attempted (32) and percentage (.344), third for scoring (8.4 ppg) and fourth in rebounding (4.5 rpg). She is one of three Miners to start all 10 games. She has been practically perfect at the free-throw line, nailing 19-21 attempts for 90.5 percent (sixth C-USA).
Jordan Alexander, the lone senior on the squad, has been trying to lead by example. She paces the team in rebounding (6.3, 13th C-USA), 3-point percentage (40.0, tied 13th), 3-pointers made (14) and attempted (35) and defensive rebounds per game (5.2, eighth C-USA). She is also one of four Miners to contribute at least 7.0 points per game (7.4 ppg).
THE BAKER FILE (OVERALL: 363-153, COLLEGE: 141-52, UTEP: 19-22)
Kevin Baker is in his second year (19-22) at the helm of the UTEP women's basketball team. He is in his 17th year overall (363-153) as a head coach, including his seventh season (141-52) 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 recover from the sluggish start (currently 2-8) and finish above .500Kevin 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 362-224, including standing 2-5 in the Don Haskins Center in 2018-19. The Miners have amassed a record of 164-50 at home since 2006-07, including 97-33 since 2011-12. Aiding that 97-33 mark was a school-record (winning percentage) 19-1 home record in 2015-16. UTEP has been particularly strong in nonconference play, standing 82-17 in the Sun City in such contests since 2006-07.
UTEP is 144-366 all time on the road, including 0-3 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 60-71 on the road, including 36-40 since 2011-12.
UTEP juniors Zuzanna Puc and Katarina Zec are starting to sprinkle their names in the UTEP career records. Zec is tied for 17th in games started (60), 18th in 3-pointers made (69), 20th in 3-pointers attempted (208) and tied for 50th in points (512). Puc is 12th in blocked shots (45), 33rd for field goals made (243) and 43rd in points (586).
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 (390-54, 87.8%), Texas A&M (317-110, 74.2%) and Texas (270-142, 65.5%) lead the way followed by the Miners (248-141, 63.8%). Lamar (238-146, 62.0%), Stephen F. Austin (234-148, 61.3%), TCU (230-165, 58.2%), Prairie View A&M (206-183, 53.0), SMU (201-182, 52.6%), and Texas Tech (192-198, 49.2%) round out the top 10.
The Miners are 148-88 since the start of the 2011-12 season (2-8 this year). 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 18 separate winning streaks of at least three games (eight such skids), and posted 88 double-digit victories (43 such losses) 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 have newcomers (Eliana Cabral, freshman guard, Alexa Hoy, sophomore guard, Sabine Lipe, freshman guard, Jade Rochelle, junior guard/forward 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.
Nearly half (5-11) of the Miners' roster in 2018-19 is comprised of international players.Eliana Cabral (Portugal), Sabine Lipe (Latvia), Neidy Ocuane (Mozambique),Zuzanna Puc (Poland) 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 andAriana 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 566-670 in its 45th season as a women's basketball program, including standing 2-8 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).
UTEP will conclude its stay in the "Sin City" by facing Mid-American Conference member Akron at 5 p.m. PT/6 p.m. MT, Friday as part of the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic.
CLIFF NOTES ON THE 2018-19 SEASON
UTEP FALLS TO UNDEFEATED PORTLAND STATE (PORTLAND STATE 89, AT UTEP 61, 12/9/18)
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 on Dec. 9. Jade Rochelle (career-high 11 points) and Ariana Taylor (career-high 10 points) came off the bench to provide a spark for the Miners, who played the second half without leading scorer and rebound Zuzanna Puc. Jordan Alexander added eight points and eight boards, but the Vikings 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.
PUC TALLIES SEASON-HIGH 21 POINTS IN LOSS AT UNM (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.
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.
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.
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.