UTEP (2-6) will have its second straight rivalry game when it plays host to NM State (6-3) in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10 at 7:05 p.m. MST.
Fans should arrive early for the unveiling of the 2016 Conference USA Regular-Season Championship banner and WNIT participant (advanced to quarterfinals) banner. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for kids and the first 3,000 fans will receive a foam finger.
It is the second straight year that UTEP is facing the combination of New Mexico and NM State in back-to-back games. The only other time that occurred was in the program’s second season (1975-76). This is the 31st season in program history that UTEP will lock up with both the Lobos and Aggies.
After falling in their first two home games of the year, UTEP has won two straight in El Paso. The Aggies dropped their initial two road contests before posting a 79-68 win at Northern Arizona (12/11) last time out.
The Miners have won five straight vs. NM State and eight of the last nine to help stand at 15-5 since 2005-06. The five consecutive wins are the most since a seven-contest surge by UTEP (11/22/05-11/20/08).
UTEP is off to its slowest start through eight games (2-6) since Keitha Adams’s first year as head coach when it was also 2-6. The record in part can be attributed to strength of schedule ranking (105TH) and relative inexperience of the squad.
Eight of the 12 active student-athletes on the Miners’ roster are in their first year of playing games at the D1 level. Moreover, there are seven freshmen (six true, one redshirt).
NM State was picked to win the Western Athletic Conference in both the coaches’ and media poll. Senior guard Moriah Mack was chosen for the WAC First-Team in both polls. Forward Brianna Freeman joined Mack on the first-team in the coaches poll and was named to the second-team with teammate Brooke Salas in the media poll.
The Aggies have won back-to-back WAC regular season and tournament titles to punch consecutive appearances to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 30 years (1986-88).
NM State split its first four games but it claimed three straight and four of the next five to improve to 6-3 on the year. Most recently it secured a 79-68 win at Northern Arizona on Dec. 11.
INSIDE THE SERIES
– NM State leads the longest running series in program history, 47-37, but UTEP is 25-17 in El Paso
– For the third straight season, the Miners and Aggies will square off just once.
– The rivals played at least twice every year from the inception of UTEP’s program (‘74-75) through ‘13-14.
– Last year the Miners won 71-65 at the Pan-American Center on Dec. 5, 2015.
– UTEP has won five straight vs. NM State and eight of the last nine to help stand at 15-5 since 2005-06.
– UTEP is 18-10 against NM State during the Keitha Adams era, making her the lone coach in program history to sport a winning record in the “Battle of I 10.” Helping that record is a mark of 15-5 since ‘05-06.
THE LAST MEETING WITH NM STATE (UTEP 71, at NM State 65, Dec. 5, 2015)
– Agata Dobrowolska posted her first career double-double (15 points, 14 rebounds) to lead UTEP to an emotional 71-65 win at I-10 rival NM State on Dec. 5.
– The Miners won the boards (43-38), forced 20 Aggie (6-2) turnovers and made clutch shots late to snap NM State’s 17-game home winning streak.
– Dobrowolska was joined in double digits for scoring by Jenzel Nash (16 points), Cameasha Turner (13 points) and Starr Breedlove (12 points). Lulu McKinney pitched in seven points, including a clutch three pointer with 47 seconds remaining to break the fourth and final tie of the tilt.
– NM State, which trailed by as many as 14 points (18-4, 5:50 1Q) did well to battle back behind 11 three pointers. The Aggies managed to pull ahead, 62-61, with 1:59 to play but Breedlove used a teardrop shot to make the Miners’ first second-half deficit of the season short lived.
– Dobrowolska’s previous career high for scoring was five (three times) while for boards it was eight. She also played 26 minutes to shatter prior career high (19).
GOING BACK IN TIME at New Mexico 79, UTEP 66 (12/11/16)
– Tamara Seda posted her second straight double-double (career-high 19 points, career-high 16 rebounds) but homestanding New Mexico rode the play of Cheirsa Beynon (24 points, seven assists, six rebounds) and Richelle van der Keijl (18 points, 12 rebounds) to a 79-66 victory at The Pit.
– UNM shot 51.4 percent (18-35), including 43.4 percent (7-16) on triples, in addition to forcing eight UTEP turnovers to help surge out to a 48-29 halftime advantage.
– UTEP outscored UNM, 37-31, during the final 20 minutes but the damage had been done. The Miners made just four turnovers in the second stanza to finish 12 giveaways for the third straight game.
– Sparkle Taylor (14 points, eight rebounds), Zuzanna Puc (nine points, three rebounds), Lulu McKinney (eight points, four assists) and Najala Howell (eight points, three rebounds) supported Seda’s play
– Senior Sparkle Taylor has hit double figures in scoring in seven of the eight games to help account for a team-leading 14.8 points/game (sixth C-USA/195th nation). Taylor has made a living at the free-throw line by nailing 36 (fifth C-USA/85th nation) of 44 attempts (fifth C-USA/124th nation) for 81.8 percent (fifth C-USA /126th nation). She entered this year at 67.2 percent (154-229) from the charity stripe for her career.
– Taylor is grabbing 7.8 rebounds/game (eighth C-USA/158th nation). That average more than doubles her efforts (3.3 rpg) through her first three years at UTEP.
– Redshirt-junior Tamara Seda tops the team in double-doubles (three), rebounds/game (9.3-second C-USA/56th nation) and shooting percentage (54.7-fifth C-USA/DNQ nationally) while rating second in scoring (8.8 points/game).
– Seda is the first UTEP post player with back-to-back double-doubles in three years (Kayla Thornton, seven straight, in 2013-14). Overall she has three double-doubles this year after recording one in 2015-16.
– Seda has four games with 10+ rebounds after doing so once in her first year at UTEP.
– Seda averaged 5.5 points and 7.2 rebounds in the first six contests; past two games at 18.5 ppg/15.5 rpg.
– Seda (4.1-third C-USA/DNQ) and Taylor (2.8-10th C-USA/DNQ) are crashing the offensive glass. Seda (5.1-sixth C-USA/DNQ) and Taylor (5.0-seventh/DNQ) are also grabbing plenty of defensive rebounds.
– Seda has also started to develop as a shot blocker with 1.3 blocks/game (sixth C-USA/175th nation).
– Seda (three), Taylor (two) and Najala Howell (one) have combined for six double-doubles on the year; the effort already surpasses the total such games (four) by last year’s squad.
– Taylor had two such performances her first three seasons at UTEP while Seda had one last year.
– Junior Ax Bernard has already piled up 20 blocks (third C-USA/38th nation) for an average of 2.5 blocks/game (first C-USA/27th nation). Last year Wiktoria Zapart and Seda tied for the team lead with 21 total blocks. Bernard has blocked at least one shot in every contest while swatting three or more three times.
– Junior Lulu McKinney is dishing out 4.9 assists/game (fourth C-USA/67th nation) and has a +1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio (sixth C-USA/136th nation).
– McKinney (four), Bernard and Taylor (three) and Seda are lone Miners to play 30+ minutes in a game.
– Jakeira Ford averaged 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in the first three games of the year before missing four straight due to an injury. She had four rebounds in 11 minutes of action in her return at UNM (12/11).
– Katarina Zec did not play at UNM while recovering from an injury sustained in practice on Dec. 5. Zec put up 6.9 points/game in her first seven contests of the year.
– Roeshonda Patterson has nailed a team-best eight three pointers.
– Zuzanna Puc tallied nine points (tied second-best game of year) at UNM to lift her average to 7.1 points/game (third on team). She hit her first career three pointer in the contest after going 0-4 previously.
– Puc has drilled 48.0 percent (24-50) of her shots to climb to second on team in field-goal percentage.
– Howell has tallied eight points in consecutive games; she had a total of 20 points in her first six games.
– Faith Cook was 1-3 from distance at UNM; she had started her career 2-11 from downtown. Cook also was credited with five assists in the game to match her total from the prior five tilts.
– UTEP has notched 5.9 blocks/game (second in C-USA/25th nationally) thanks mainly to Bernard and Seda.
– UTEP is connecting on 42.9 percent (153-357) of its two-point shots and 23.4 percent (33-141) of its triples.
– There are six Miners earning at least 20.0 minutes/game, with McKinney (29.0) pacing the list.
– UTEP is recording 43.7 rebounds per game (first C-USA/36th nationally) and has a +4.6 (43.7-39.0) margin (fifth C-USA/95th nation).
– UTEP has recorded 12 turnovers in three straight games; it made 18+ giveaways in the first five tilts.
– UTEP has had multiple players with 10+ points vs. WNMU (five-Nov. 17), Houston Baptist (three-Nov. 30), at New Mexico (two-Dec. 11) and Texas Southern (two-Nov. 13). It is 2-2 in those games but stand 0-4 in contests with only one individual reaching double figures in scoring.
– The Miners nailed a season-high seven three pointers at UNM (12/13).
– The Miners are even (14.5-14.5) in 1Q, -6.1 (14.8-20.9) in 2Q, +0.6 (14.9-14.3) and +0.4 (17.5-17.1) in 4Q.
GETTING TO KNOW THE 2016-17 MINERS
– Eight of the 12 active student-athletes on the Miners’ roster are in their first year of playing games at the division I level. There are six true freshmen (Faith Cook, Jakeira Ford, Roeshonda Patterson, Zuzanna Puc, Rachel Tapps and Katarina Zec), one redshirt-freshman (Jessica Barbosa- practiced with team last year) and one junior-college transfer (Axelle Bernard).
– There are four active returnees (senior Sparkle Taylor, juniors Lulu McKinney and Tamara Seda and sophomore Najala Howell). SeniorJenzel Nash, the lone returning starter from last year’s team, hasn’t played. She is currently suspended indefinitely due to a violation of team rules.
– UTEP has more newcomers (seven) than returnees (five) on the roster for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign when it also had that ratio. That year was also the last time UTEP seven freshmen.
– The Miners lost nine letter winners, including four starters from last year’s team (29-5, 16-2 C-USA regular-season champion, advanced to quarterfinals of the WNIT).
– UTEP has a veteran coaching staff that has great chemistry from working together at the school; it is in form of head coach Keitha Adams(16th year), associate head coach Ewa Laskowska (16th year) and assistant coaches Bill Damuth (seventh year) and Kelli Willingham Bagley (second year).
The game will be broadcast on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio, with Duke Keith (play-by-play) and Traci Miller (color commentator). There will be a live stream on UTEPAthletics (subscription based). Fans can also stay up-to-date by following the Miners (@UTEPWBB) or Aggies (@NMStateWBB) on Twitter.