TUCSON – The UTEP women’s basketball team 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 Monday evening.
Red-Shirt Junior Ariona Gill (11 points) and senior Jordan Alexander (10 points) hit double figures in scoring to pace the Miners (2-8), who limited the Wildcats (9-1) 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.
“I’m proud of our defensive effort and I’m proud of our rebounding,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “We just didn’t take care of the ball well enough to make it a real game. We never played the game on our terms. We always played from behind and couldn’t get into a rhythm. We didn’t give Arizona much of a game today, and I’m sad about that because our fans deserve better.”
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.
The Wildcats placed four players in double figures for scoring, with Aari McDonald (15 points) pacing the group. It was 10 points below her seasonal average, which had her ranked second nationally for scoring average (25.7 ppg) entering the contest.
UTEP held its own early on, with Gill cruising coast-to-coast for a fastbreak lay-up to make it a two-point contest (6-4) four minutes in. The Wildcats scored the game’s next nine points on the way to securing a double-digit advantage (15-4, 2:09 1Q). The Miners pitched a shutout the rest of the frame while also getting a pair of free throws courtesy of Alexander and a jumper from Lipe to inch within seven (15-8) through 10 minutes of action.
The Wildcats drilled consecutive 3-point shots at the onset of the second stanza, and suddenly the Orange and Blue trailed by 13 (21-8, 8:01 2Q). It remained a 13-point affair midway through the quarter, before a 9-0 splurge from UA changed that. The run was halted by a lay-up from Gill, but the damage had been done as UTEP went into halftime trailing by 21 (38-17).
It was a much more competitive second half, with the Wildcats only outscoring UTEP by a single point (24-23) over the final 20 minutes of the action. Playing a big part in that tally was the Miners’ refusal to quit, even when they found themselves down by 34 (62-28, 5:40 4Q) midway through the final frame. The Orange and Blue scored the final 12 points of the contest.
UTEP will be back in action when it takes part in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic at South Point Arena in Las Vegas.
The Miners will play two games in as many days, 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.