Photo by Ruben R. Ramirez | El Paso Herald Post
The UTEP women’s basketball team (4-1) will play twice in as many days as part of the Eighth-Annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic Friday and Saturday at the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners will square off with Western Michigan (2-2) at 3:30 p.m. Friday and against Georgia State (0-4) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. NM State will face both Georgia State (1 p.m., Friday) and Western Michigan (5 p.m., Saturday) in the other contests in classic.
“This year’s Thanksgiving Classic will be a great opportunity for our team to compete and improve. Western Michigan will bring in a very well-coached and talented team. They play a very fast, up-tempo style and like to shoot quickly each possession. They will try and speed up the game and push the ball to score,” UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker shared. “They will also be difficult to keep off the boards. Their style of play is a little different than ours and we will need to play well to find success.”
Baker added, “Georgia State has a very athletic and fast team. Their team is athletic and scrappy and they can cause problems for you with their defensive energy. They are also great attackers off the dribble and will try to get to the rim. I consider them to be a very dangerous team. If they can get their perimeter shooting going then they can compete with anyone. We will need to do a great job defending them.”
With a win against Western Michigan Friday, the Miners can match their best start (5-1) of the Kevin Baker era. UTEP got out of the gates at 5-1 in 2017-18, Baker’s first year on the sidelines.
If UTEP can emerge victorious in each of its games at the Thanksgiving Classic, it will secure the best start to a season since 2015-16 (8-0).
Western Michigan is 2-2 on year, including being edged, 80-79, by Florida Atlantic (11/24/19). After being held to 55 points at Michigan (11/9), the Broncos have scored at least 79 points in three straight games.
The effort has led to WMU putting up 74.0 ppg, with four of the five starters in double figures for scoring. They are in the form of Breanna Mobley (14.5 ppg), Jordan Walker (12.5 ppg), Kamrin Reed (12.3 ppg) and Leighah-Amori Wool (11.3 ppg). WMU enjoyed four straight winning seasons before slipping to 10-20 last year. It returned three starters and seven letter winners from that squad.
Georgia State enters this weekend at 0-4 on the season, with three off the four losses by double digits. It is 0-3 at home and 0-1 on the road. Taylor Henderson (15.0 ppg) and Taylor Hosendove (10.0 ppg) pace the attack. Shaquanda Miller-McCray has controlled the boards (10.8 rpg). The squad has been hindered by shooting 29.2 percent (68-233) and a -15.2 rebounding margin (30.3-45.5).
GSU returned its top two scorers from last season in redshirt junior Jada Lewis (13.6 ppg) and redshirt senior Allison Johnson (11.7 ppg). Lewis was second-team All-Sun Belt last year while Johnson was named to the third team and was the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year. Their efforts helped the Panthers forge a mark of 17-14.
They advanced to the WBI, the program’s first postseason appearance since 2003.
UTEP won the only prior meeting with Western Michigan, 70-44, in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Jan. 3, 1993. The Miners have never squared off with Georgia State.
Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kid, with one ticket gaining admission for both games of the day. They may be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234. The contests will be the fourth and fifth of seven straight at home (2-1 in stretch) for UTEP.
The game will be streamed on CUSA.TV (subscription based).