Photo by Ruben R. Ramirez | El Paso Herald Post
The UTEP women’s basketball team (3-1) will take part in its second rivalry game of the week by challenging I-10 rival NM State (1-4) at the Don Haskins Center Saturday night at 7 p.m.
The Miners were handed their first loss of the season, 93-78, by New Mexico on Nov. 19. The Aggies enter on a three-game skid, including being clipped, 72-69, by Pepperdine on Nov. 20. The contest is the third of seven straight at home (1-1 in stretch) for the Miners.
“When we play New Mexico State it is always a good, competitive game. This Saturday at 7 p.m. will be no different. I love watching our team compete, and this will be another challenging game for us. Our team seems to improve every time we step on the floor, and we hope to do the same in this contest,” Head Coach Kevin Baker shared.
NM State is in the midst of a three-game losing streak and stands 1-4 overall on the season. It sustained a 86-67 setback to New Mexico (11/17), but the other three losses have been by a combined 11 points.
NM State leads the longest running series in program history, 50-38, but the Miners are 16-8 against the Aggies dating to the 2005-06 season. UTEP picked up its first win in the Pan-American Center in four years by toppling the Aggies, 63-57, on Nov. 23. It also snapped a three-game winning streak in the series by NM State.
UTEP is 26-19 against the Aggies when playing in El Paso. The rivals squared off at least twice every year from the inception of UTEP’s program (1974-75) through 2013-14 before five straight years with just one meeting.
The home-and-home series has returned this season, with UTEP taking aiming at sweeping the series for the seventh time in program history.
Senior Katarina Zec scored 17 points, including a go-ahead three pointer with two minutes to play in the game, to help lift UTEP to a 63-57 win at I-10 rival NM State on Nov. 9. The effort secured the Miners’ third straight 2-0 start under head coach Kevin Baker. Furthermore, they picked up their first road win against the Aggies since 2015-16.
Junior transfer Michelle Pruitt (14 points) and freshman Katia Gallegos (13 points) joined Zec in double figures for scoring, while senior Ariona Gill pitched in seven points to go along with a team-best eight rebounds.
Ariana Taylor came off the bench to score nine points, in addition to setting up Zec’s clutch trey. It was a back-and-forth game with 12 ties and 19 lead changes, with the final change coming down the stretch. NM State led by two (57-55) with 3:24 to play, but UTEP closed the game on a 6-0 push to stay perfect on the young season.
Zec provided the go-ahead score with a knockdown triple off a cross-court pass by Taylor.
Earlier this week, UTEP put up 78 points while shooting 49 percent from the floor, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with high-octane New Mexico in a 93-78 setback at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 19. Nearly 1,500 fans, most of them young students, made for an entertaining atmosphere on the Miners’ “Education Day” game, but the Lobos emerged victorious in a battle of unbeatens.
Katarina Zec (16 points), Tatyana Modawar (career-high 12 points) and Katia Gallegos (10 points) all hit double figures in scoring for UTEP. Ariona Gill flirted with a double-double (eight points, 10 rebounds) while Avery Crouse netted nine and Ariana Taylor chipped in seven points.
UNM relied on a barrage of 3-pointers (12-29), an extremely good day at the line (17-19) and winning the boards (41-30) to outlast the Miners. The Lobos had a 24-14 margin on second-chance points while also holding advantages for points in the paint (38-28) and fastbreak points (34-12).
UTEP lost for just the second time (14-2) of the Kevin Baker era when scoring at least 70 points.
Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids and may be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234. The game will be streamed on CUSA.TV (subscription based) and broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso with Duke Keith and Traci Miller on the call.