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THE OPENING TIP
The UTEP women's basketball team (3-8) will take aim at its second victory in as many days when it faces Akron (7-2) in its final game of the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic at South Point Arena at 5 p.m. PT/6 p.m. MT Friday. The contest will be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso with Steve Kaplowitz
on the call. It will also be streamed online through a Vimeo Live Stream. The Miners snapped an eight-game losing skid by toppling Western Illinois, 84-72, on Dec. 20 while the Zips bested Jackson State, 74-57, on Dec. 20 as well.
GET TO KNOW AKRON (7-2 OVERALL; 3-1 HOME; 1-1 AWAY, 3-0 NEUTRAL)
Akron has won two straight games and four of the past five to stand at 7-2 overall on the year. It is a marked improvement from a year ago, when the Zips finished 9-21 overall. They brought back all five starters from that squad and eight letter winners overall, but are under the direction of first-year head coach Melissa Jackson. The Zips are perfect (3-0) on the season in neutral-site contests, including downing Jackson State, 74-57, on Dec. 20. Akron is among the upper echelon of the Mid-American Conference and within the top 100 for the NCAA in 3-pointers made per game (8.1, fifth/52nd), free-throw percentage (74.3, fifth/53rd), scoring defense (57.6, first/62nd), field-goal percentage defense (36.5, third/72nd), turnover margin (+2.7, fifth/88th) and three-point field-goal percentage (33.8, fifth/92nd). Individually Megan Sefcik tops the team in scoring (17.6 ppg, fourth MAC/78th NCAA), three-pointers per game (3.4, fourth MAC/17th NCAA), three-pointers made (31, fourth MAC/45th NCAA), 3-pointers attempted (78, fourth/61st NCAA), three-point percentage (39.7, sixth MAC/89th NCAA). Overall Sefcik is 53-117 from the floor. No one else on the squad has more than 75 shots. Haliegh Reinoehl (10.0 ppg) is the only other play on the squad in double figures for scoring for Akron. The Zips have made six postseason appearances, including qualifying four straight years from 2013-16. They played in the WNIT in 2013, 2015 and 2016 while going to the "Big Dance" in 2013. Akron also previously competed in the WNIT in 1999 while being invited to the WBI in 2010. Notable university alumni include Jason Taylor (six time NFL Pro Bowler) and Yvette Nicole Brown (actress).
QUICK HITTERS FROM UTEP'S 84-72 WIN VS. WESTERN ILLINOIS
UTEP scored a season-high 84 points, aided by its highest-scoring quarter (28 points) during the third quarter ... the 28 points also tied as the ninth-highest total in program history ... established season highs for both first half (39) and second-half (45) points ... Zuzanna Puc
posted her third double-double (season-best 24 points, 11 rebounds) of the season ... shot a campaign-best 53.6 percent (30-56) ... hit a season-high 11 3-pointers on 19 attempts for its top percentage (.579) from distance ... every Miner had least four points in the contest, with Neidy Ocuane
(eight points), Sabine Lipe
(seven points) setting career highs for scoring ... Jordan Jenkins
(seven) and Ariona Gill
(four) matched their career high in assists ... all 10 Miners played at least 12 minutes in the game ... UTEP dominated the boards (41-27).