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File: UTEP's #12 Sparkle Taylor

H-P Sports In-Depth: UTEP Set to Battle Pitt in Florida

UTEP (2-7) will travel to the “Sunshine State” to compete in the inaugural Patrick Harrington Tournament with two games in as many days against power conference opponents. The Miners open play against ACC foe Pitt (7-3) at 4 p.m. MST/5 p.m. CST Monday. UTEP then will lock up with SEC power Alabama (8-1) at 6 p.m. MST/7 p.m. CST Tuesday.

This is the first meeting between the Miners and Panthers.

The tournament is named in honor of the late Patrick Harrington, who was tragically killed as the result of a car accident. He passed away at the age of 51 on Oct. 9, 2014, and is survived by his wife Lori, and their three children, Kelly, Patrick Harrington II, and Katherine.

Patrick Harrington was the head coach at Northwest Florida State women’s college (site of the tournament), compiling a record of 100-25 and back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in the NJCAA Division I Tournament.

UTEP is 10-51 all time vs. teams from a power five conference (at point of match-up), but it is 7-8 since ‘12-13. The games at the tournament will be the fourth and fifth vs. power conference schools on the year, which is the most in a single season in program history.

UTEP is off to its slowest start through nine games (2-7) since Keitha Adams’s first year as head coach when it was also 2-7 (finished 3-25). The record in part can be attributed to strength of schedule ranking (78th) 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).

GETTING TO KNOW PITT

–  Pitt is in its 43rd season of women’s basketball, and it has an all-time record of 606-621, including 7-3 this year. It returned four starters and nine letter winners overall from last year’s team (13-18, 4-12 ACC). Pitt is in its fourth year as a member of the ACC after having played in the Big East from ‘82-83-’12-13.

–  The Panthers have made four NCAA appearances (last in 2015) and five WNIT bids (last in 2010).

–  Pitt bolted out to a start of 6-0 on the year for the first time since 2009-10 (8-0) and the fourth occasion in program history. The effort led to it receiving two votes in USA Today Coaches’ Poll.

–  The Panthers dropped their next two games-both by single digits and at home- (L, 61-67, Purdue, 11/30; L, 63-70, Charlotte, 12/4) before bouncing back to drill Bryant (76-60, 12/6). Last time out they were upended at Penn State (L, 62-91, 12/10).

–  Pitt has top-100 NCAA rankings in turnovers forced/game (18.7-16th), assists/game (18.5-17th), turnover margin (+6.0-29th), blocks/game (5.1-41st), free-throw percentage (75.0-42nd), field-goal percentage defense (35.5-54th), scoring margin (+13.4-59th) and steals/game (9.5-90th).

–  Brenna Wise paces the team in scoring (13.4 ppg), rebounding (7.3 rpg-ninth/199th) and field-goal percentage (47.7 percent-15th/120th). She is joined in double figures for scoring by Brandi Harvey-Carr (10.6) and Aysia Bugg (10.1).

–  Jasmine Whitney (+2.8-fifth/24th), Kauai Bradley (+2.6-sixth/28th) and Aysia Bugg (+2.3-10th/57th) are all among the ACC/national leaders for assist-to-turnover ratio. Whitney (+4.6-sixth/86th), Bugg (4.1-10th/140th) and Bradley (3.7-17th/184th) also are rated in assists/game.

–  Bradley (1.5-sixth/112th) and Brandi-Harvey-Carr (1.3-eighth/164th) both block better than 1.0 shots/game. Bradley is also coming up with 2.7 steals/game (seventh/48th).

–  The University of Pittsburgh is one of the oldest in the country; it was founded after the American Revolutionary War in 1787 on the edge of the American frontier. It was a private university until 1966.

–  Notable alumni include Philip Hench (Nobel Prize recipient in 1920), Vladimir Zworykin (regarded as the “father of television” and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees Dan Marino, Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett.

GOING BACK IN TIME – NM State 67, at UTEP 59 (12/15/16)

–  Zuzanna Puc notched her first career double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds) and UTEP made a late charge but visiting NM State escaped El Paso with a 67-59 win in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10 on Dec. 15.

–  The Miners trailed the Aggies by 15 (59-44) with 7:37 to play before fighting back to whittle the deficit all the way down to five (64-59) with1:37 left. UTEP had two opportunities to get within three or even two but a couple of shots rimmed out and NM State iced the game with two late free throws.

–  Najala Howell (career-high 13 points, Lulu McKinney (12 points), Tamera Seda (10 points, eight rebounds) and Faith Cook (career-high nine assists) helped give the Miners a more balanced offensive attack. UTEP finished at 37.0 percent (20-54) from the floor and dished out 18 assists but was hindered by a readout of 23.5 percent (4-17) on three pointers and 60.0 percent (15-25) at the charity stripe.

–  NM State’s effort snapped a five-game winning streak for UTEP in the series, though the Miners still stand 15-6 against their I-10 rivals since 2005-06.

QUICK HITTERS

–   Senior Sparkle Taylor has hit double figures in scoring in seven of the nine games to help account for a team-leading 13.9 points/game (eighth C-USA). Taylor has made a living at the free-throw line by nailing 39 (fifth C-USA/73rd nation) of 48 attempts (fourth C-USA/101st nation) for 81.3 percent (fifth C-USA /130th nation). She entered this year at 67.2 percent (154-229) from the charity stripe for her career.

–  Taylor is grabbing 7.3 rebounds/game  (10th C-USA/193rd nation). That average more than doubles her efforts (3.3 rpg) through her first three years at UTEP.

–  Taylor has put up 130 field goals (third C-USA/118th nation); the next closest Miner is at 77.

–  Redshirt-junior Tamara Seda tops the team in double-doubles (three), rebounds/game (9.1-second C-USA/60th nation) and shooting percentage (54.1-seventh C-USA/DNQ nationally) while rating second in scoring (8.9 points/game).

–  Seda became the first UTEP post player with back-to-back double-doubles in three years (Kayla Thornton, seven straight, in 2013-14). She has three total, after notching 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 15.7 ppg/13.0 rpg.

–  Seda (4.1-second C-USA/DNQ) and Taylor (2.7-tied 11th C-USA/DNQ) are crashing the offensive glass. Seda (5.0-sixth C-USA/DNQ) and Taylor (4.7-ninth/DNQ) are also piling up defensive boards.

–  Seda has also started to develop as a shot blocker with 1.3 blocks/game (sixth C-USA/148th nation).

–  Seda (three), Taylor (two), Najala Howell (one) and Zuzanna Puc (one) have combined for seven 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 22 blocks (first C-USA/39th nation) for an average of 2.4 blocks/game (first C-USA/27th nation). That effort surpasses the Miners’ co-leaders (Wiktoria Zapart and Seda, 21 blocks). for the season.

–  Bernard has blocked at least one shot in every contest while swatting three or more three times.

–  Junior Lulu McKinney is dishing out 4.6 assists/game (sixth C-USA/90th nation) and has a +1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio (eighth C-USA/191st nation).

–  Puc allied her first career double-double vs. NM State. She is now third on the team for both points/game (7.6) and rebounds/game (5.7-20th C-USA)

–  Puc has drilled 49.1 percent (28-57) of her shots to climb to second on team in field-goal percentage.

–  McKinney (five), Bernard, Seda and Taylor (three) and Faith Cook (one) are only Miners to play 30+ minutes in a game this year. McKinney tops the team in minutes/game (29.4) while Taylor (25.9), Bernard (23.0), Seda (23.0) Katarina Zec (22.3) and Puc (21.1) all earn at least 20.0 minutes/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 has accounted for 3.0 ppg and 2.0 rpg in 11.0/minutes/game since returning to health for the respective match-ups at New Mexico (12/11) and vs. NM State (12/15).

–  Zec has missed the past two games 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 and McKinney share the team lead for three pointers made at eight.

–  Howell has 29 points (9.7 ppg) in the past three games; she had 20 total points in her first six contests.

–  Cook has 14 total assists the past two games (7.0 apg); she had 11 in her first seven contests (1.6 apg).

–  UTEP has notched 5.7 blocks/game (second in C-USA/25th nation) thanks mainly to Bernard and Seda.

–  UTEP is connecting on 43.1 percent (170-393) of its two-point shots and 23.4 percent (37-158) of its triples.

–  UTEP is recording 43.1 rebounds per game (second C-USA/43rd nation) and has a +4.0 (43.1-39.1) margin (fifth C-USA/105th nation).

–  UTEP finished with 19 turnovers vs NM State (12/15); it had recorded 12 giveaways each in prior three.

–  UTEP has had multiple players with 10+ points vs. WNMU (five-Nov. 17), NM State (four-Dec. 15), Houston Baptist (three-Nov. 30), at New Mexico (two-Dec. 11) and Texas Southern (two-Nov. 13). It is 2-3 in those games but stand 0-4 in contests with only one individual reaching double figures in scoring.

–  The Miners are -0.5 (128-132) in 1Q, -6.0 (17.5-23.5) in 2Q, -0.6 (15.8-16.4) in 3Q and +1.0 (19.8-18.8) in 4Q.

–  The first eight games on the year were decided by double digits before the eight-point differential (L, 59-67) in the setback to I-10 rival on Dec. 15.

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).

Brandon Cohn will have the call for both contests on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio. Fans can also stay up-to-date by following the Miners (@UTEPWBB), Panthers (@pittwomenshoops) and Crimson Tide (@AlabamaWBB) on Twitter.

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