The UTEP women’s basketball team surged out to a 23-point lead at the half (38-15) en route to knocking off Western Michigan, 76-46, at the Eighth-Annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic Friday afternoon.
“We played really well,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “The first half set the tone. I thought our press really took them out of their game. The kids kind of just took over with tremendous chemistry. They played some quality basketball, and we beat a good basketball team.”
The Miners (5-1) shot 49.2 percent (30-61) from the floor and won the boards (47-32) to handle the Broncos (2-3). UTEP also got after it on defense by holding WMU to 28.1 percent (16-64) and forcing 18 turnovers to keep them 28 points below their scoring average (74.0) entering the game.
Arina Khlopkova (career-high 14 points), Katarina Zec (12 points) and Michelle Pruitt (10 points) all hit double figures in scoring to pace UTEP. Tia Bradshaw (career-best eight points) also had a career scoring day. Ariona Gill (10 rebounds) led the charge on the glass while Zec secured a season-high eight boards.
UTEP shared the ball well, with 20 assists on 30 field goals, with Katia Gallegos (five) and Avery Crouse (career-best four) leading the way in the department.
WMU took an early 4-3 lead before UTEP struck back with a 13-2 push to lead by 10 (16-6) with 3:23 to play in the first quarter. Included in the surge were eight straight points by Zec, which prompted a timeout from the Broncos. Gallegos also found Crouse for a transition triple. WMU used a free throw late to cut the Miners’ advantage to nine (16-7) before Bradshaw beat the buzzer with a pull-up jumper to put UTEP up 11 (18-7) through 10 minutes of action.
The Miners carried the momentum into the second quarter, unleashing a 12-2 run over the first seven minutes of the frame to extend their advantage to 21 (30-9). It was back-and-forth the rest of the frame, with the Miners heading into halftime armed with the aforementioned 23-point cushion.
UTEP continued to sizzle in the third quarter, using a 9-0 run midway through the frame to push the differential to 30 (54-24) with 4:34 to play in the period. WMU put together a bit of a rally, cutting the margin to 22 (56-34) after three quarters of play. The home side continued to control in the final frame, with the Broncos never getting closer than that the rest of the way.
The Miners will wrap up play at the UTEP Thanksgiving Classic against Georgia State at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Don Haskins Center. NM State will face Western Michigan at 5 p.m., in the first game of the day. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids and may be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234.
For complete coverage of UTEP women’s basketball, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPWBB (Twitter), @utepwbb (Instagram) and on Facebook or click here to visit the official home of UTEP Athletics.
Gallery by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer – El Paso Herald Post