UTEP women’s basketball (9-5, 6-3 C-USA) won its fourth straight game and improved to 6-1 at home in a dominating 82-56 victory over UTSA (2-12, 0-9 C-USA) on Thursday night in front of 246 in attendance at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso.
The Miners had three players reach double figures and used a 45-point performance from the bench to notch the 26-point victory over the Roadrunners.
With the game tied 7-7 midway through the first, the Miners went on a 10-0 scoring run and never looked back, maintaining the lead for remaining 34 minutes of play. UTEP’s 45 points off the bench was the most since the Miners’ bench scored 48 against UTSA last season. The win over UTSA marks the fifth straight victory for the Miners over the Roadrunners.
“One of the things we talked about before the game tipped off was that we feel like we have the best bench in Conference USA,” head coach Kevin Baker said. “I challenged them before the game started and said let’s go be better than everybody else’s bench. I thought we did that today. I’m super proud of them and I know that we can even play better than we did. We played through some lulls today. We out-rebounded them big and turned them over 16 times. We did some good things that we really wanted to do. I’m super proud of how our bench played today. Everyone has five that can play, but when you’ve got 12 that can contribute, it’s like a coach’s dream. I’m proud of that and our coaches have worked hard recruiting until we get to that point where we have that kind of bench. To see them get payoff for their hard work really makes us all feel good.”
The game’s leading scorer came off of UTEP’s bench with Destiny Thurman scoring 14 points (4-7) with the help of a 3-of-5 effort behind the arc. Michelle Pruitt also came off the bench to score 12 points and notch a team-high seven rebounds in the win.
“I thought Destiny and Michelle really helped with our energy level,” Baker said. “They made plays. They made shots. We started the game cold and couldn’t make a wide-open shot, but then our bench came in and really gave us tremendous energy.”
Katia Gallegos also ended the night with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Sabine Lipe had eight points, four rebounds and four assists to help lead the Miners to a victory at home.
Overall, the Miners shot 56.7 percent from the field (34-of-60), including an impressive fourth quarter that saw UTEP go 11-of-17 (64.7%) from the floor to close out the game. UTEP shot 40 percent from both three-point range and at the free-throw line.
UTEP went into halftime with a 39-21 lead over the Roadrunners and continued to dominate in the third and fourth, shooting over 60 percent in the second half. The Miners jumped out to their largest lead of the game, a 27-point advantage, midway through the fourth to help clinch the win.
As a team, UTSA shot 40.4 percent from the field (23-of-57), while the Roadrunners were led by Karrington Donald with 11 points. Yuliyana Valcheva led UTSA with eight rebounds on the night.
The Miners won the battle underneath, out-rebounding UTSA, 40-27, while UTEP also scored 42 points in the paint compared to 28 by the Roadrunners.
Next up, UTEP will now travel to San Antonio ahead of the series finale against UTSA on Saturday, Jan. 30. Tipoff is set for 12 p.m. MT.
The game can be seen on ESPN+ for subscribers, while fans can also tune in to the radio broadcast with Tim Hagerty calling all the action on ESPN 600 El Paso and on the UTEP Miners app.
Gallery by Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post