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Twenty-Three UTEP Student-Athletes to Graduate on Saturday

Twenty-three past and present UTEP student-athletes will walk across the graduation stage on Saturday and receive their diplomas from the university.

The list includes 11 representatives from the football program, four from men’s track & field, three from women’s track & field, two from softball, and one apiece from men’s basketball, soccer and tennis.

Graduating this weekend will be All-Americans Samantha Hall (track & field) and Will Hernandez (football).

Seventeen graduates hail from the United States, while two come from Jamaica, one from American Samoa, one from Australia, one from Kenya and one from Nigeria.

Ten of the graduates (Adebola Akomolafe, Christian Buckingham, David Jackson, Johnny Jones, Alan Luna, Ademiju Oyebanjo-Odofin, Orion Prescott, Israel Ramsay, Matilda Tench, Trey Touchet) earned placement on the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Roll during their careers for posting grade point averages of 3.0 or better.

Touchet was a three-time recipient of a Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Medal for achieving a GPA of 3.75 or higher.

Adebola Akomolafe (Women’s Track & Field)

Part of the team that won the first indoor and outdoor conference championship in school history … helped the Miners to three consecutive indoor conference titles … registered the eighth-best mark in program history in the hammer throw with 52.22m (171-04) … captain of the women’s team for two seasons … finished her college career with bests of 46.13m (151-4) in the discus, 17.66m (47-11.25) in the weight throw and 52.22m (171-04) in the hammer throw … earned a spot on the 2017 C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Biological Sciences major.

 

James Bias (Men’s Track & Field)

Part of the team that won the 2014 Conference USA Indoor Championship … ran the anchor leg on the 4x400m relay that took second at the 2014 C-USA Indoor  Championships … part of the 4x400m relay that qualified for the 2017 NCAA Championships, clocking in with a time of 3:03.15 which ranks second in school history … finished his career with personal bests in the 60 (6.87), 100 (10.51), 200 (21.06) and the 400m (47.24) … two-year team captain … Computer Science major.

 

Christian Buckingham (Football)

The transfer from El Paso Community College played for the Orange and Blue during the 2017 campaign … defensive lineman saw action in the first four games before suffering a season-ending injury … notched four tackles and one quarterback hurry … member of the 2017 Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll …Biology major.

 

Kristopher Christian (Football)

Member of the Miner football team for three seasons … saw action in eight games during the 2015 season … recorded a tackle on special teams versus UTSA …Criminal Justice major.

 

Devin Cockrell (Football)

Played and started in 47 games for the Miners … tallied 247 tackles during his career … also totaled 15.5 tackles for loss, 11 pass breakups, eight quarterback hurries, three sacks, three interceptions and one fumble recovery … led all UTEP defensive backs in tackles during the 2016 and 2017 seasons … was named the 2016 Top Gun Player of the Year, awarded to the best special teams performer … as a true freshman, led the team in tackles with 76 … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Zack Greenlee (Football)

Played two seasons for the Miners after transferring from Fresno State … saw action in 17 games, making 11 starts at quarterback … threw for a total of 1,513 yards on 124-of-254 passing with nine touchdowns … during senior campaign, rushed for 114 yards and a pair of scores … threw for over 100 yards in eight contests … opened his UTEP career by throwing for three touchdowns on 15-of-27 passing, with 229 yards and no interceptions during a start and victory over rival NM State … Leadership Studies major.

 

Miranda Gutierrez (Softball)

Played in 22 games for the Miners … made six starts during her senior season … scored five runs … went 2-for-2 and scored a run during game one against Florida Atlantic … drew a walk and crossed the dish during UTEP’s victory over FAU … scored three runs and connected on three hits against the Owls on Senior Weekend … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Samantha Hall (Women’s Track & Field)

Part of the team that won the first indoor and outdoor conference championship in school history … helped the Miners to three consecutive indoor conference titles … competed at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2015 and 2017 … won the discus throw at the C-USA Outdoor Championships in 2015 and 2017 … set a school record in the discus throw in 2015 with a mark of 58.50m (191-11) … completed her college career with bests of 14.90m (48-10.5) in the shot put and 34.38m (112-9.5) in the javelin … earned All-C-USA First Team honors for the 2015 season … garnered second team All-American accolades during her final season … Economics major.

 

Will Hernandez (Football)

Started at left guard in every game played (49) since his freshman season in 2014 …

the first Miner offensive lineman to receive Associated Press, CBS Sports and FOX Sports All-American honors … two-time Pro Football Focus First Team All-American … also the first UTEP offensive lineman since 2009 to earn All-Conference USA first team recognition … one of 11 Miners ever to be invited to the prestigious Senior Bowl … appointed the 2016 Pro Football Focus Pass Protector of the Year … named to the 2017 Outland Trophy Watch List … Kinesiology major.

 

David Jackson (Football)

Member of the Miner football team for three seasons … saw action in 10 games on special teams in 2016 … played in the Miners’ last home game versus LA Tech in 2017 … listed on the 2016 C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll …Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Johnny Jones (Football)

Played in 22 games for UTEP … saw action on defense and special teams … notched a total of 26 tackles, three tackles for loss and one forced fumble … during junior campaign recorded a season-high four stops against Army … two-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Evans Kiprono (Men’s Track & Field)

Competed in both cross country and track and field for UTEP … part of the team that won the 2014 Conference USA Indoor Championship … helped the Miners capture back-to-back conference cross country titles (2015, 2016) … garnered All- Conference USA third team honors in the 10,000m in 2014 … notched an All-C-USA second team honor in the 10,000m in 2015 … finished his career running a personal best 10,000m time of 31:09.16 … helped the Miners finish 11th in the nation at the 2015 NCAA Cross Country Championships … Biological Sciences major.

 

Alan Luna (Football)

The former walk-on played in 36 games for the Miners … finished collegiate career ranked third on the program’s all-time list for career punts (206) and punt yards (8,910) … 79 punts in 2017 rank tied for fifth on the program’s single-season list, while his 3,483 yards rank fifth on the school’s single-season list … a two-time member of the Ray Guy Award Watch List … during senior season ranked second in Conference USA and fifth in the FBS in punt yards (3,483) … two-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … International Business major.

 

Brian Madunezim (Football)

Was a two-year football letterwinner, seeing action in 20 games … notched a total of

36 tackles, four quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, one tackle for loss and two

assisted sacks … during the 2016 season played in all 12 games, making six starts

and totaling a career-best 32 tackles … registered a career-high eight tackles against

Army … Computer Science major.

 

Tommy McCoy (Men’s Track & Field)

Captain of the track and field squad for two seasons (2015, 2016) … helped the men

finish second at the 2014 and 2015 C-USA Outdoor Championships … registered six

top-10 finishes during the 2015 outdoor season … finished his college career with

bests of 53.38 in the 400m hurdles and 51.14 in the 400m … History major.

 

Ademiju Oyebanjo-Odofin (Men’s Track & Field)

Notched 11 top-10 finishes in the 400m hurdles in his career at UTEP … helped the

Miners to a second place finish at the 2015 C-USA Outdoor Championships … clocked

in with a personal-best time in the 400m hurdles at the Brutus Hamilton Challenge

during his final season, with an effort of 55.39 seconds … finished his career with

personal bests in the 200m (22.71), 400m (51.03) and the 600m (1:26.08) … three-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Construction Management major.

 

Kiki Pepi (Softball)

Played in 155 games, making 153 starts in three seasons with the Miners … became

the seventh Miner to reach the 100-RBI mark with 103 … ranks second on the

program’s all-time list with 331 career assists … 134 assists in 2016 set a school

record, while her nine assists at FIU in 2016 is a single-game standard … led the

Miners in RBI her last two seasons … Organizational & Corporate Communication

major.

 

Orion Prescott (Football)

Saw action in all 12 games during the 2016 season … rushed for 14 yards on three

carries … ran for 11 yards on two attempts with a long rush of 10 yards during a

victory over Houston Baptist … tallied a three-yard run during a season-finale win

versus North Texas … two-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic

Honor Roll … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Israel Ramsay (Women’s Track)

Part of the team that won the first indoor and outdoor conference championship in

school history … helped the Miners to three consecutive indoor conference titles …

team captain for two seasons … competed at the 2015 NCAA West Preliminary

Round in the high jump, long jump and 4x100m relay … competed at the 2017 NCAA

West Preliminary Round in the 4x100m relay … part of the C-USA champion

4x100m relay teams in 2015 and 2017 … finished her college career with bests of

1.76m (5-9.25) in the high jump and 5.95m (19-6.25) in the long jump … earned a

spot on the 2017 C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Multimedia

Journalism major.

 

Matilda Tench (Tennis)

Appeared in 111 singles and 103 doubles matches for the Miners, tallying 94 wins …

ranks sixth in UTEP’s all-time record book for career singles wins with 46 … had a

career-high 14 singles wins and 15 doubles victories during the 2014-15 season …

two-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll …

Kinesiology major.

 

Bri Thomas (Soccer)

Evolved into one of the top scoring threats in Conference USA while starring for her

hometown Miners … a three-year starter who was used as a defender, midfielder

and forward, she recorded 13 goals and eight assists for 34 points in more than

4,500 minutes of playing time … saved her best for last with eight goals and four

assists for a 20-point senior season in 2016 … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Trey Touchet (Men’s Basketball)

Has appeared in 69 games for the Miners, making five starts … has collected 224

points, 84 rebounds, 66 assists and 23 steals … scored in double figures five times

during his sophomore season (2016-17) … three-time recipient of a Conference USA

Commissioner’s Academic Medal … three-time member of the C-USA

Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … on a Presidential Scholarship at UTEP …

Kinesiology major.

 

Augie Touris (Football)

Played for the Miners for three seasons as a blocking tight end … saw action in 16

games, making five starts … played in all 12 games during the 2017 season, seeing

the field on offense and special teams … recorded his first career catch, a five-yard

snag during the first quarter against WKU … Creative Writing major.

Miners’ Zec Sinks Career-High 22 Points, UTEP Upended At NM State 76-68

Katarina Zec poured in a career-high 22 points while matching the program record for 3-pointers with seven, but homestanding NM State downed UTEP 76-68, inside the Pan-American Center Sunday afternoon.

The Miners (5-3) led by one (34-33) at the half before the Aggies (3-5) used a huge third quarter (25-13) to surge into the lead. The margin swelled to as many as 15 (67-52) before UTEP eventually struck back with a 7-0 run to cut it to seven (69-62) but it was too little too late.

Both squads shot well from the floor (UTEP 44.8 percent, NM State 45.3 percent) while also nailing 12 three pointers each, but NM State converted 21 UTEP turnovers into 23 points to create some separation. Conversely NM State’s 11 giveaways led to seven UTEP points. The Miners tried to make up for it by winning the boards (40-31) for the eighth time in as many games, which resulted in a 12-4 cushion in second chance points, but it wasn’t enough.

Tamara Seda joined Zec in double figures with 12 points while junior Jordan Alexander flirted with a double-double (eight points, 11 rebounds). Najala Howell and Roeshonda Patterson each finished with nine in the game.

NM State was led by Brooke Salas, who exploded for 29 points and six rebounds. Gia Pack (15 points) and Zaire Williams (14 points) also reached double figures in scoring for the Aggies.

“We looked young and played young today,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “We came out of the locker room not really ready to play. Every time we showed the resilience that our kids have to get back in the game in we did something crazy to put ourselves away from the game. We never did quit. We have to play better and take care of the ball more. We are going to keep battling and hopefully figure out a way to get better.”

NM State jumped out to an 11-5 lead midway through the opening frame before back-to-back triples by Zec and Patterson pulled the Miners even (11-11) with 3:41 to play in the period. After the two sides traded scores, NM State put together a 5-0 run to take a 19-14 advantage through 10 minutes of action.

The deficit swelled to as many as eight in the second quarter before UTEP started to get things going. Faith Cook started the push with a triple. The Miners then got a stop and Cook found Howell all alone in the corner for a 3-pointer to make it 31-31 with 2:11 to play in the half. After NM State briefly regained the lead, Jordan Alexander sunk a pull-up jumper to afford UTEP a one-point cushion (34-33) at the half.

The Aggies came out firing to start the third quarter, making their first six shots of the frame to fuel a 14-3 run over the first three-and-a half minutes of the frame. The surge put UTEP down 10 (47-37) and forced Baker to call a timeout for his troops to regroup. Out of the break Puc used a strong post move to halt the 8-0 NM State run. UTEP then got a stop and a jumper by Alexander to make it a six-point contest (47-41). The Miners managed to get within four (50-46) but NM State closed the quarter on an 8-1 run to take an 11-point advantage (58-47) to the fourth quarter.

NM State slowly but surely extended its cushion in the fourth quarter, at one point leading by as many as 15 (67-52). The deficit was 14 (69-55) with 5:47 to play in regulation before UTEP peeled off seven straight points to narrow the gap to seven (69-62) with 2:40 left. NM State’s Salas connected on a triple to reinstate a double-digit lead for the home side and UTEP was unable to get close than seven the rest of the way.

UTEP will be idle for a week due to finals before returning to action against former Conference USA foe East Carolina at the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. at 11:30 a.m. MST/1:30 p.m. EST on Dec. 17.

The game will be broadcast locally in El Paso on 600 ESPN El Paso.

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Miners Down Washington State 76-69

For the first 20 minutes on Saturday night, Washington State pounded UTEP on the glass, made seven three-pointers and built a three-point halftime lead. 

In the second half the Miners turned the tables on the Cougars, owning the boards 21-12 and holding them to 5-for-16 shooting from beyond the arc.  It all added up to a 37-27 UTEP advantage in the second stanza and a 76-69 victory before 6,341 enthusiastic fans in the Don Haskins Center.
 
It was a quality win for the Miners (3-6), who appear to be rounding into form following a sluggish start to the season.
 
“You think about [Washington State’s] season so far up to this point, beating Saint Mary’s and San Diego State, they are really difficult to guard because they have so many three-point shooters on the floor at all times,” UTEP Interim Coach Phil Johnson said.  “A lot of times five, and most of the night four.  They just lit us up in the first half and we couldn’t rebound it, we couldn’t stop them.  And everything changed in the second half.  We guarded better.” 
 
UTEP opened the second half with a 10-3 run to go ahead 49-45.  The game was tied up for the last time at 55-all when the Cougars’ Milan Acquaah scored a jumper with 11:30 to play.  The Miners took the lead for good, 57-55, on a rebound and tip-in by Matt Willms with 10:53 remaining.
 
Washington State (6-3) hung around and only trailed by one (66-65) after Kwinton Hinson sank a three-pointer with 3:43 left.  The Miners buckled down and held the Cougars to only four points the rest of the way, as they salted it away at the line.  UTEP finished 14-for-14 from the charity stripe in the second half and 21-for-22 for the game.  The .955 percentage is second-best in school history for a game with a minimum 20 free throws made.  The Miners shot 96.3 percent (26-for-27) from the stripe versus Fresno State on Feb. 10, 2005.     
 
Keith Frazier led the Miners with 21 points and eight rebounds.  He shot 5-for-11 from beyond the arc.
 
“We’ve got to make Keith a complete player,” Johnson said.  “We obviously know he can shoot it and score.  He’s learning.  He’s getting better defensively and just passing and understanding the score and time and all those things.  We gave him player of the game, not just because of his scoring, but you look at the stats and he’s our leading rebounder.  For him to do that as a 6-4 two-guard was huge.”
 
Omega Harris scored 18 points.  He and Evan Gilyard (10 points) both went 8-for-8 from the line.  Paul Thomas added 11 points and five rebounds.  Willms, making his return from a broken hand after missing three weeks and four games, tallied eight points and seven rebounds and was a big factor on the glass in the second half.
 
Evan Gilyard, I don’t even know if he had a basket,” Johnson said.  “He made some free throws.  He had one basket and he was 0-for-4 from three.  But the job that he did on [Malachi] Flynn was tremendous.  I thought Jake Flaggert‘s job … Jake doesn’t score.  I told our guys, you don’t have to score to impact winning.  And there’s proof with Evan Gilyard and Jake.  But obviously we got some good offense from Keith and Omega again.  I’m glad to see Omega play well.  And having Matt back was tremendous down the stretch going and rebounding it.”
 
Flynn, averaging 16.8 points entering the game, finished with three.  He was 1-for-8 from the field and 1-for-6 from outside.  Viont’e Daniels led Washington State with 18 points and six three-pointers.
 
It was an entertaining, well-paced game on “Star Wars Night” with a crowd that was at its best.
 
“I want to thank everybody that came out given the circumstances, which are unique and I get that,” Johnson said.  “But to come out and support these kids and the team, I’ve always made it clear it’s not about me whatsoever.  Not at all.  It’s about these players and team and just trying to have a year and get better.  And they’re enjoying themselves right now.  But the crowd helped us.  I mean, when they went crazy for a defensive play by Flaggert to take a charge and get on the floor for a loose ball, it’s the most knowledgeable crowd in the country.  And I thought it gave us a big, big lift in the last five minutes.”
 
The Miners will take a 10-day break between games during finals week before hosting Incarnate Word on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m.

Miners Set to Battle Washington State Saturday on “Star Wars” Night

Coming off a week-long break between games, the UTEP men’s basketball team will shoot for a second consecutive victory on Saturday when much-improved Washington State invades the Haskins Center.

Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. on “Star Wars Night,” with special in-game elements and character appearances from a galaxy far, far away. Plus fans will have a chance to win tickets to the next installment in the saga, “The Last Jedi,” which opens on Dec. 15.

The Miners (2-6) got a jolt of confidence from an 88-76 victory over long-time rival New Mexico in the Don last Saturday.

“It was a drastic change from the New Mexico State game [on Nov. 30], where we looked awful,” Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said. “But you know, we tried to throw in some things in 48 hours that really didn’t fit our team to go play that game. We made some adjustments and the guys played great. They played with a lot of confidence. Obviously Omega [Harris] had his best game of the season and probably his career. But the real key for me was Kobe Magee’s points and his decision-making against all that pressure. But I think they feel pretty good about themselves right now.”

Harris scored a career-high 28 points against the Lobos, making 9-of-11 shots, all four of his three-point attempts and all six of his free throw tries. Magee had his breakout game as a Miner with 16 points.

“Kobe came off the bench and played really flawless, had a great floor game and made the right decisions,” Johnson said. “That was a game where you had to make the right decision once you beat the press. I thought he did. He’ll probably get the start [on Saturday].”

The Miners are still short-handed in the frontcourt with Matt Willms out, but he is nearing a return from a broken hand.

“My guess is probably not on Saturday, but he’ll be ready for the following game,” Johnson said.

A year removed from finishing 13-18 overall, and 6-12 in the Pac-12 Conference (tied for ninth place), Washington State has opened the season by winning six of its first eight games. The Cougars have dropped consecutive contests, however, to UC Davis at home on Dec. 2 (81-67) and Idaho on the road on Dec. 6 (91-64). The Cougars’ top two scorers – junior forward Robert Franks (19.9 ppg) and sophomore guard Malachi Flynn (16.8 ppg) – have both made tremendous strides from a year ago. Franks averaged 6.3 points in 2016-17, and Flynn collected 9.7 ppg. Sophomore guard Carter Skaggs (Chipola College) has been an impact transfer, averaging 8.0 points while shooting 50 percent (17-for-34) from three-point range and 100 percent (9-for-9) from the line. As a team, Washington State shoots 39.3 percent from beyond the arc and 71.9 percent from the charity stripe.

“We have been watching [them] quite a bit,” Johnson said. “The thing that’s really interesting about them, you know they were 6-0 and they had beaten San Diego State, and they had beaten Saint Mary’s who is rated in the top-20. Those are really impressive wins. They are scoring a lot of points. But what’s amazing, they had been down three times 20+ points and came back and won. So they’re never out of a game, and you’re never out of a game if you’re down to them because they shoot so quickly and long bombs. So we’ve got to get out to the three-point line and guard them. That will be the message.”

Tickets start at just $8 and are available by calling (915) 747-5234.

UTEP Rally Falls Short at Arkansas State 76-73

JONESBORO, Ar.- Tamara Seda (19 points, 16 rebounds), Najala Howell (17 points) and Roeshonda Patterson (career-high 17 points) all reached double figures in scoring but UTEP was edged at Arkansas State, 76-73, Tuesday evening.

The Red Wolves (4-4) set opponent season highs for points (76) and field-goal percentage (49.2) to help them rally past the Miners (5-2). UTEP led 44-36 at the half but A-State used a huge third quarter (24-11) to surge into the lead and the Miners could never recover. They went down fighting, though, whittling a nine-point deficit (72-63) down to three on a pair of occasions but couldn’t quite complete the comeback.

The Orange and Blue connected on 42.9 percent (27-63) from the floor while also winning the boards (43-27) but couldn’t get enough stops to pull off the win. UTEP’s 73 points establish a season high.

Seda has now recorded five straight double-doubles, the longest such streak by a Miner in non-conference play since at least 1982-83 (prior records incomplete).

“It was a strange game because it felt like we had it under control but they shot the ball incredibly well,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “We had too many turnovers in the first half. In the second half we only had five. They kind of crept back in the game. Once they got the lead we never could get it back.”

UTEP jumped out to a 10-5 lead halfway through the first quarter before the visitors responded to get within one (12-11) with 3:18 to play in the period. Jordan Alexander halted the surge with a steal and score, followed by an old-fashioned three-point play from Howell to make it 17-11 with 1:40 to play in the stanza. The margin remained six (21-15) heading to second quarter, with UTEP’s 21 points marking its highest scoring output in the opening frame this season.

The Miners’ margin hit double figures (27-17) for the first time of the night on a lay-up by Seda with 8:14 left in the half. It was an eight-point game (37-29) with three minutes left in the quarter before Arkansas State tallied seven straight points to cut UTEP’s advantage down to one (37-36, 1:05 2Q).

UTEP took the blow in stride, responding with a half-closing 7-0 run to surge into the locker room up by eight (44-36). Patterson was instrumental in the sequence, scoring the first five points of the run before setting up Howell’s lay-up with five seconds left in the half.

Arkansas State opened up the third quarter on an 8-2 run to cut the Miners’ lead down to two (46-44). UTEP used back-to-back baskets to get some breathing room, and it was up by six (52-46) with 4:49 to play in the quarter.

A-State picked up its play at both ends of the court, allowing it to close the period on a 14-3 push to secure a five-point lead (60-55) heading to the fourth quarter.

The home side extended its lead to nine on two occasions in the fourth quarter, including being up 72-63 with 3:55 to play. The Miners regrouped and scored four straight points-all on free throws by Howell- to inch within five (72-67).

After A-State extended the margin back to seven a Seda free throw and Howell jumper made it a four-point game (74-70) with 51 seconds left.

A-State split a pair of free throws before UTEP used a transition basket from Seda to make it a three-point contest (75-72) with 15 seconds left. The Miners nearly came up with a steal on the inbounds play before fouling.

The Red Wolves missed the first but hit the second to essentially put the game away.

The Miners will be back in action when they play at I-10 rival NM State at 2 p.m. MST Sunday. The game will be broadcast locally in El Paso on 600 ESPN El Paso while also being shown live on Fox Sports Southwest and Fox Sports Arizona PLUS.

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Miners Down UNM 88-76 Saturday Night at the Don

Omega Harris scored a career-high 28 points and missed two shots all night, as UTEP ended a six-game losing streak with an 88-76 victory over long-time rival New Mexico on Saturday in the Haskins Center.

The Miners (2-6), coming off a 1-6 November, got the month off to a great start.  UTEP will be home for all seven games in December, including the first two Conference USA contests versus North Texas (Dec. 28) and Rice (Dec. 30).

“We just got a great effort really from everybody,” Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said.  “We had a really intense practice yesterday and today.  We had to clean up a lot of things from the New Mexico State game [Thursday], and shot selection and not guarding and not getting back and all those things.  I give our guys a ton of credit for adjusting and putting into the game the things that we worked on yesterday and today in film.  All of the things that we did, it got into the game.  And a lot of times it doesn’t.”

The Miners only trailed once at 2-0.  A 13-2 run extended a 16-15 lead to 29-17.  Kobe Magee, who had the best game of his young UTEP career with 16 points off the bench, scored seven points during the run.

UTEP matched its largest lead of the half when it went to the locker room up 45-31.  The Miners had some problems with the Lobos’ defensive pressure to start the second half and the lead was trimmed to 45-38.  New Mexico (3-5) pulled within five at 61-56 on two free throws by Chris McNeal with 10:15 remaining, capping an 11-2 run.  But the Miners scored the next five points to push the lead back to 10 and were in command the rest of the way.

“Give them credit.  Their intensity picked up in the second half big-time,” Johnson said.  “That’s why we had a little more trouble with the press, just because their athleticism and effort picked up.  But at the end of the day Kobe Magee, man what a floor game he had.  And I told Omega in the locker room, ‘Welcome back.  Welcome back Omega.’  That’s the guy that we recruited four years ago.”

Harris made 9-of-11 shots, all four of his three-point attempts and all six of his free throws.  He moved into 25th place on UTEP’s all-time scoring list and, for the first time this season, looked like himself after dealing with a troublesome back in the early going.

“I didn’t have anything to do with it honestly.  I had zero to do with it,” Johnson said.  “He just played.  You know, I kind of got on him the other day.  I said ‘You know, this isn’t you man.  This isn’t Omega Harris that we’re watching play.’  He has been in a funk and then he broke out tonight.  And his shots were in balance.  He kicks his foot out, he gets a lot of shots off balance.  Tonight everything was in balance except for his turnover in front of our bench with about 1:50 [left] and up by 12.  That’s not a good play.  But other than that, I thought he did a really nice job.  And one turnover in 34 minutes out of Omega is big-time.”

Magee gave the Miners a big-time spark, particularly in the first half when he scored 11 points.

“Listen, he’s a good player,” Johnson said.  “His floor game was really good.  It got a little shakier in the second half with three turnovers, but the first half was really flawless.  It was a real fine line to stay aggressive against the press.  You’ve got to go attack the score.  And then when you don’t have the right look to bring it out and have the poise to know what is the difference, what’s a good shot and not a good shot.  And in the New Mexico State game, we didn’t.  We just cranked it from anywhere, anytime, one pass.  That was really the downfall for us the other night, was turnovers and bad shots and tonight that got better in both areas.”

The Miners shot 53.7 percent from the field, made nine threes and connected on 21-of-27 free throws.  And they didn’t let New Mexico go berserk from three-point range.  The Lobos finished 11-for-31 from beyond the arc.

“Right from the very start, we wanted to make sure we got to them on the three-point line,” Johnson said.  “You have to help to the drive.  Obviously [Sam] Logwood is a load.  He is one stout guy.  And he can really drive and he’s physical.  So we brought really only one helper to him and tried to stay to their shooters.  That wasn’t perfect either.  But the key was getting out to them and running them off the three-point line ,and we did a pretty solid job of that.”

Keith Frazier (16 points), Isiah Osborne (10) and Paul Thomas (10) joined Harris and Magee in double figures.  The small Miners were competitive on the boards, getting outrebounded 37-33.

“You know, it’s really amazing that we started four guards and really played four guards the entire game, four perimeter players, and then Paul Thomas or Tirus Smith at the five,” Johnson said.  “And we even put Jake [Flaggert] at the five for about eight minutes.  So we had five guards in the game.  It was just effort, really, and gang rebounding, rebound down from the top, don’t stand and watch, go get it no matter what and team rebound.  Just looking at Keith Frazier with seven [rebounds] and Isiah Osborne with eight, is big-time.  Those are two perimeter guys going out and getting 15 rebounds.  That’s awesome.”

Logwood led New Mexico with 22 points.  McNeal, averaging a team-leading 16.6 points per game coming in, was limited to nine points and only one field goal.

The Miners will return to action on Saturday, Dec. 9 against Washington State in the Haskins Center.  Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. MT and tickets are available by calling (915) 747-5234.

Photos by Andres Acosta, Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald-Post

Miners Rally to Beat HBU 69-62

Senior Tamara Seda recorded her fourth straight double-double (18 points, 16 rebounds) while junior Najala Howell poured in a season-high tying 19 points to help lead UTEP to a 69-62 victory against HBU at the Don Haskins Center Saturday afternoon.

The Huskies (2-4) led 31-26 at the half but the Miners (5-1) came alive after the break to post the come-from-behind win to close out the season-opening six-game homestand in style. The game featured eight ties and seven lead changes, with the final one coming down the stretch when UTEP peeled off nine straight points-all on treys- to turn a one-point deficit (57-56) into their largest lead of the contest (65-57). HBU scored the next five points but the Miners put the game out of reach with a Jordan Alexander jumper with 21 seconds to play.

“Our energy wasn’t very good in the first half and Houston Baptist really punished us for that,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “They played well and built a lead. We really challenged them hard in the locker room at half time. Our kids really responded to that. I’m really proud of our team. I wish we would have played a little better quarters one through four but I’ll certainly take their energy and activity that they played with in the fourth.”

UTEP set season highs for 3-pointers made (10), attempted (21) and percentage (47.6), including going 6-8 from distance in the final frame to help complete the comeback. The Miners also won the boards (44-32) while holding HBU to 38.1 percent (24-63) from the floor, including 19.0 percent (4-21) from distance.

Sophomore Roeshonda Patterson provided a spark off the bench with a career-high matching 11 points to join Howell and Seda in double figures. Freshman Jordan Jenkins pitched in a personal-best six points to go along with six assists.

HBU was led by Amanda Johnson’s 26 points.

The visitors jumped out to an early 6-3 lead before UTEP responded with a 9-1 run to secure a 12-7 advantage with 4:01 to play in the first quarter. The Huskies quickly cut the deficit to one (12-11) but UTEP finished the period strong and led 17-11 through 10 minutes of action. The Miners connected on 63.6 percent (7-11) from the floor in the frame, with six assists on their seven field goals.

It was a different story in the second quarter, with the visitors turning up the heat defensively while finding some rhythm on offense. The result was a 20-9 frame in favor of HBU, which included a 13-2 surge late in the half to grab a 31-23 advantage. UTEP ended the run with a high-arching 3-pointer from Patterson that made it a 31-26 game at the half.

The deficit remained five (38-33) with 6:19 to play in the third quarter before UTEP started to slowly but surely claw its way back into the game. They did so at the free-throw line, going 10-12 in the quarter on the way to evening the score (45-45) heading to the fourth quarter.

Katarina Zec drilled a long triple at the start of the final frame to give the Miners their first lead (48-45) since the first half. Faith Cook followed that with a pull-up jumper and suddenly the home side led by five (50-45). HBU struck back with a 5-0 run of its own to forge the seventh tie of the tilt.

After the Huskies snuck back into the lead (57-56), UTEP answered with three straight triples to fuel a 9-0 run and vault ahead by a score of 65-57. Jenkins sunk the first one before consecutive treys by Howell.

HBU wasn’t done, though, using a layup by Johnson and a 3-pointer from Britta Daub to make it a one possession game (65-62). The Orange and Blue kept their composure and ran a good set to give Alexander a wide-open look from the wing. She drilled the jumper, affording the Miners some much-needed breathing room (67-62) with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.

UTEP got a couple stops down the stretch and a sunk two more free throws to close out the contest in style.

The Miners will return to action at Arkansas State at 4 p.m. MST Tuesday. It is the first road contest of the year for the Orange and Blue and fans may stay informed by following @UTEPWBB on Twitter for timely updates

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Miners, Lobos to Continue Longstanding Rivalry Saturday in The Don

A year after UTEP and New Mexico went down to the wire in Albuquerque, the Miners will entertain the Lobos in the Don Haskins Center on Saturday night.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and fans are encouraged to wear white as the Miners complete a string of three rivalry games in eight days.

“We know that they have really adjusted into a unique style and they’re fullcourt pressing all over the floor and we’ll be ready for that,” UTEP interim coach Phil Johnson said.  “We’ve got one day to get ready for a really good basketball team.  We talked to a lot of coaches that have played them or seen them, and they have all been really impressed with New Mexico, particularly with how well they shoot it and their pressure is unique in the fact that it’s all game, start to finish.”

New Mexico (3-4) is making its first visit to El Paso since January of 2008.  The Lobos have a new coach (former NM State head man Paul Weir) and a host of new players.

Only one starter returns in senior guard/forward Sam Logwood (15.7 ppg).  Junior guard Chris McNeal, who leads the Lobos with 16.6 points per game, was a JUCO All-American at Indian Hills last season.  The Lobos average 11.9 three-point field goals and 31.9 three-point attempts per game led by McNeal (22 threes) and junior guard Anthony Mathis (20).

The Miners dipped to 1-6 with an 80-60 loss to NM State on Thursday.  The good news is the month of November is over and UTEP will play every game in December (seven total) in the Haskins Center for the first time since 2012.  The month will conclude with the tip-off of Conference USA play against North Texas (Dec. 28) and Rice (Dec. 30).

Last year the Miners rebounded from a 2-13 start to go 12-6 in C-USA.  Johnson acknowledged that the experience gained a year ago could be beneficial towards turning things around in 2017-18.

“Maybe, particularly for the guys that were here through that last year,” he said.  “They have to feel like there is hope.  And that’s something I did leave them with [in the post-game meeting on Thursday].  There is hope.  We did it a year ago and lost a bunch of games this time of year, and we made some changes and we got a lot better.  Part of that getting better last year was when we got Matt Willms healthy, along with some other things.  He obviously will give us a boost and a lift when he comes back.  But we’re going to have to learn to play without him.  He can’t play 40 minutes a game, and we can’t always count on him to be everything.  Not any one guy is going to be that good of a player for us.  We’ve got to play together and we talked about sharing the ball and sharing everything.  We talked about sharing in the loss, sharing in the victory, sharing the ball, everything that we do as a team.  And we’ll stay together.”

Following Saturday’s game, the Miners will have one game in 16 days – plenty of time to get better on the practice floor.

UTEP and New Mexico will be meeting for the 143rd time on Saturday.  The Lobos lead the series 77-65, but the Miners hold a 40-27 advantage in games played in El Paso.

Tickets start at just $8 and are available by calling (915) 747-5234.

UTEP Names Phil Johnson Interim Men’s Basketball Coach

Phil Johnson was named UTEP’s interim men’s basketball coach on Tuesday morning, following the retirement of Tim Floyd.

“Larry Eustachy was the National Coach of the Year and worked for me,” Floyd said following Monday’s game versus Lamar.  “I had another guy, John Brady, who was at LSU and was the National Coach of the Year.  He worked for me.  Randy Bennett has done the best job in the United States at Saint Mary’s University, a very, very difficult place.  He worked for me.  Kermit Davis worked for me.  Phil Johnson is better than all of those guys.”

“Nobody has had more of an impact on my career than coach Floyd,” Johnson said.  “And nobody has been a better friend in my career than coach Floyd.  He is probably my closest friend in the world.  I think the world of him.”

Johnson has assisted Floyd on the bench at the University of New Orleans (1991-93), with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls (1999-02), at USC (2005-09) and at UTEP (2010-17).  He was the head coach at San Jose State for four seasons (1998-99, 2002-05).  Johnson has coached in nine NCAA Tournaments and two Final Fours and was a part of the Arizona Wildcats’ national championship run in 1997.

“I’m going to talk to the team today,” Johnson said.  “I think we have some possibilities.  I think we have talent in here.  We have a losing record, but we don’t have any losers on our team.  We have good coaches.  We’ll all do this together.  We’re going to figure out a way to get the most out of this team.”

The Miners will host long-time rivals NM State (Thursday, 8 p.m.) and New Mexico (Saturday, 7 p.m.) as they continue a nine-game homestand this weekend.  Tickets are available by calling 747-5234

Video+Story+Gallery: Floyd Retires After 66-52 Loss to Lamar

UTEP Men’s Basketball Coach Tim Floyd announced his retirement on Monday following the Miners’ game versus Lamar at the Don Haskins Center.

“I want to say this.  I have coached for 42 years, and I love this school,” Floyd said.  “My father played here.  Nobody wants to win here more than I do.  And I have coached at this university for 16 years.  And I think it’s time for somebody else to have the opportunity to have the joy that I’ve had, the agony that I’ve had, the acclaim that I have had, and the heartbreak that I’ve had in my career.  I want what’s best for this school.  I want what’s best as they move forward.”

“This seems like a great time with a new athletic director, for him to evaluate Phil Johnson, Bobby Braswell, this program where it is, and try to make a decision on what he thinks is best for this program as it moves forward.  I want to thank Dr. Natalicio for giving me the opportunity to coach here. Richard Adauto, who I consider a friend, has done a great job.  He has given us everything we have asked for.  I want to thank Bob Stull and Chris Park for believing in me and what we tried to do.

“When we came here seven years ago, we inherited a team with 11 seniors.  The following year we had two guys back in Gabe McCulley and John Bohannon.  We had to try to rebuild it from scratch and we got to 22 and 23 wins and I can’t even explain what’s happened here in the last three or four years in the new world of college basketball, from some of our signees not showing up to some people that we tried to rely on that might have left early, to injuries, and they have continued to happen.

“I’m always going to pull for this school, I’m always going to pull for these players.  This is a great, great, great place.  My family has told me that they feel like it’s time.  I’ve had some issues of my own here in the last two and a half weeks, three weeks.  And I’m going to be fine.  But I wanted to coach my last game at this university.  And I appreciate the fact that we got an opportunity to do that.”

Floyd closes out his collegiate coaching career with a record of 466-279, and a 138-99 mark at UTEP.  He previously was the head coach at Idaho (1986-88), New Orleans (1988-94), Iowa State (1994-98) and USC (2005-09) prior to returning to UTEP as head coach for the 2010-11 season.  He was an assistant coach under Don Haskins at UTEP from 1978-86.

Floyd’s teams made eight NCAA Tournament appearances and five trips to the NIT.  He was also head coach of the Chicago Bulls (1998-2002) and the New Orleans Hornets (2003-04) in the NBA.

“I’m through, I’ve retired as of today,” Floyd said.  “This is my last game as a coach.  I’m going to move forward with my life.  You know, I heard Bobby Bowden say one time, and I thought it was the most beautiful quote that I’d ever heard, that he didn’t want to retire, that every weekend of his life had been an event.  And then after you retire, there’s only one event left, and he wasn’t looking forward to that event.  I thought that was a hell of a line.  But you know what, I’m going to try to enjoy the next chapter of it, just like I have this.

“I feel like the most blessed guy in the world.  I have had the most incredible, incredible opportunities and have worked with some great, great players.  And I go back here to Jim Bowden and Don Haskins giving me an opportunity, and I’ll forevermore be grateful for that.  It changed my life and I think people outside this part of the world don’t understand what a great, great city this is and what a great basketball job this is.”

The Miners finished 75-43 in Conference USA play under Floyd, with top three finishes on four occasions in seven full seasons (tied for second 2010-11, third 2012-13, tied for second 2014-15, tied for third 2016-17).  He ranks second in UTEP history in victories and has coached the second-most games of any UTEP coach (237).

“This is the right time.  I know it’s the right time,” Floyd said.  “I love these kids, they know I love them.  And I appreciate the kids and their parents in this new age of college basketball, who have hung in there and understood that adversity is a good thing and fighting through it sometimes is a better thing.  But I don’t know that any program has dealt with more than we have here in the last three or four years at this level.  It has been incredibly difficult to keep fighting the fight.”

As far as the game, Lamar made 9-of-14 three-point shots in the first half in blowing out to a 20-point lead, and a late rally by UTEP came up short as the Miners fell to the Cardinals, 66-52, on Monday at the Don Haskins Center.

“First of all, I’m really proud of our guys’ effort in the second half,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “They went and fought and competed and I think they held the other group to 25 percent [shooting] in the second half.  We didn’t come out right.  We understand that.  We have had a lot of adversity here in the last week or so.”

Joey Frenchwood made four three-pointers in the first half and Zjori Bosha made three for the Cardinals (5-1), who improved to 2-0 on the road this season with victories at Tulsa and UTEP.  The Miners never led after falling behind 13-0 in the first three minutes.

UTEP was only down nine (24-15) when Kobe Magee hit a three-pointer with 8:52 remaining in the half.  But the Cardinals used a 14-3 run to push their advantage to 20 (38-18).

Lamar was comfortably in front the entire second half, despite a frantic finish that saw the Miners (1-5) pull within nine points with 39 seconds left.  UTEP utilized a 15-4 run to trim a 20-point deficit down to 61-52.

Trey Wade, returning to the lineup after missing a game with a hyperextended knee, was the only UTEP player in double figures with 13 points.

Bosha scored 18 points, Josh Nzeakor 15, Frenchwood 12 and Colton Weisbrod 11 for the Cardinals.  Lamar shot 39 percent from the field to UTEP’s 33.3 percent, and the Cardinals outscored the Miners 14-7 in points off turnovers.

Video courtesy UTEP Athletics | Photos Gallery by Andres Acosta, Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald-Post

Miners Drop Battle of I-10 vs Aggies 72-63 in Las Cruces

Down to only nine scholarship players, including two over 6-7, the UTEP men’s basketball team battled NM State to the end before falling 72-63 on Saturday night at the Pan American Center.

“I thought our guys, given the adversity that we have had this week losing Trey Wade and Matt Willms and [it being] our first road game, I thought we played really hard.  I thought we played really competitive,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “We had five guards out there for significant stretches of the game and I thought our guys really competed.”

The Miners (1-4) played the Aggies (4-1) to a 20-20 deadlock in the first 16 minutes before NMSU ended the half with a 9-2 run.  UTEP opened the second half with a 12-5 run to tie it at 34.  The Aggies outscored the Miners 17-3 over the next five minutes to take their largest lead, 51-37, on a three-pointer by Zach Lofton with 11:56 to go.

UTEP was able to get within six three times the rest of the way, the last at 68-62 with 52 seconds remaining, before the Aggies closed it out with free throws.

Evan Gilyard scored in double figures for the first time as a Miner, tying Paul Thomas for team-high scoring honors with 14 points.  He added five rebounds and two steals.

“He’s got quickness and strength,” Floyd said.  “He was a guy who had to do most everything for his high school team.  The next step in his growth will be his ability to get in the lane and make plays for others, to make plays for perimeter guys and post guys dumping off, understanding clock situations, that kind of thing if we’ve got eight, nine, 10 seconds on the clock, how we want to go play in those situations.  But he’s a young guy and we love that he’s a Miner.  He’s competing and that’s the best thing that he does.”

Keith Frazier and Omega Harris added 13 points each for UTEP.  Frazier pulled down seven rebounds as the Miners predictably were dominated on the glass, 46-31.

NMSU also shot better (43.9 percent to 36.8 percent) and made 10 three pointers, including three from Sidy N’Dir.  A key stat in UTEP’s favor was an 18-5 edge in points off turnovers.  The Miners had 11 giveaways and 16 takeaways on the night.

“To have 11 turnovers in your first road game, we can live with that,” Floyd said.  “I think a lot of guys will look back at a shot or two that didn’t go down, a free throw or two that didn’t go down early in one and one, but those things are going to happen throughout the course of the game.  We made a nice run to start the second half.  [Johnathon] Wilkins made a couple of big shots for them, big threes that we felt like we were going to have to live with given our lack of size and the fact that we needed to protect the interior.  I thought we gave it everything that we had.”

The Miners’ two big men – Thomas and Smith – played 30 and 17 minutes respectively.  Smith fouled out, and Thomas ended the game with four personals.

“I don’t think there is a team in the country tonight that played that didn’t have nine fouls from their four or five interior players between them,” Floyd said.  “We had nine between two.  So that’s where we are right now.  And until Matt gets back, we’re going to go fight it.  Trey Wade hopefully will get healthy at some point.  He was going to start tonight and was unable to go because of an injury that occurred yesterday in practice with a hyperextended knee.  But we played with a lot of grit.”

Lofton, who came in averaging 25.3 points per game, got going late for the Aggies with 13 points over the final 14:18.  He finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.  N’Dir added 13 points and Wilkins had 10 for NMSU.

“We played a team that had 25 offensive boards against the Lobos,” Floyd said.  “They had 10 tonight and given the circumstances of the game, I thought that was something that we could almost live with.  Our guys had a real purpose to what we were trying to do and I’ve got a lot of respect for how hard we played tonight.”

The Miners will open a season-long nine-game homestand against 4-1 Lamar on Monday at 7 p.m.

UTEP will also host NMSU (Thursday, 8 p.m.) and New Mexico (Saturday, 7 p.m.) next week.  Tickets are available by calling (915) 747-5234.

UTEP Takes Down SEC Foe Arkansas 64-61

UTEP posted a wire-to-wire 64-61 victory against Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas in its opening game of the sixth-annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic at the Don Haskins Center Friday afternoon.

The Miners (3-0) raced out to a 13-2 lead four minutes in, were up 18 (38-20) at half and 16 (52-36) through three quarters before withstanding a furious rally attempt by the Razorbacks (3-2). UA managed to whittle UTEP’s advantage all the way down to one (62-61) but sophomore Faith Cook hit a fadeaway jumper to beat the shot clock with eight seconds left in the game to put the Miners back up by three.

The visitor’s Devin Cosper then misfired on a triple at the other end to send the Miners to their first victory in program history against an SEC opponent. Overall it is UTEP’s initial regular-season victory against a power-five conference foe since it crushed Kansas State, 84-39, on Nov. 16, 2013.

“The first three quarters was just good Miner basketball,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “I thought we played about as well as we could offensively at times, made some really good decisions. They (Arkansas) is a 3-point shooting team, and we knew that. But we wanted to try, at least, was to make them rely on the three. I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. We learned something today; we learned how to win a tough game. We learned how to take care of the ball late when we had turned the ball over and lost the momentum. I just thought our kids gritted their teeth and decided that we were going to win today. That’s also thanks to our crowd. I thought our crowd was absolutely phenomenal. I’m proud of our fan’s effort today. It was just a great day to be a Miner.”

Senior Tamara Seda notched a double-double (20 points, 10 rebounds) to lead UTEP, but she was buoyed by 14 points and eight rebounds from junior Najala Howell and 10 points and six boards by sophomore Katarina Zec. Freshman point guard Jordan Jenkins did her part with a career-high seven assists while sophomore Zuzanna Puc pitched in eight points and four boards in 15 minutes off the bench in her 2017-18 debut.

UTEP connected on better than 50.0 percent (50.8 percent, 27-53) from the floor for the third straight game, something it hasn’t done to start a season since at least 1981-82 (prior stats incomplete). The Miners also defended tirelessly, holding Arkansas to 30.0 percent (21-70) from the floor. The Razorbacks jacked up 41 3-point shots, but only made 11, for a readout of 26.8 percent.

The Orange and Blue took care of business on the boards, winning the rebounding battle to the tune of 51-27. Helping that figure was 40 defensive boards, the most against a division I opponent since also securing 40 against Tulane on March 8, 2013.

An area of concern for UTEP was turnovers (23) which led to 22 Arkansas points. But the Orange and Blue compensated for that by the dominance in other areas, in addition to holding a 38-18 advantage in points in the paint.

The Razorbacks were led by Devin Cosper (22 points), which was aided by her drilling 6-13 from distance. Malica Monk (10 points) also reached double figures in scoring but she had entered the game accounting for 21.3 points per game.

UTEP bolted out to a 13-2 lead over the first four minutes of the contest, prompting Arkansas to call timeout. Seda was the dominant factor, accounting for 10 of the points in the stretch.

While the Miners cooled off offensively, they continued to harass the visitors at the other end of the court which allowed them to carry a 15-3 advantage into the second quarter. The three points tied as the fewest points allowed in a quarter by the Orange and Blue in program history. Arkansas was 0-15 from the floor during the first 10 minutes, including 0-9 from distance.

The visitors came out firing to start the second frame, using a triple from Monk and an old-fashioned three-point play quickly whittle the UTEP lead to six (15-9). The margin was seven (22-15) midway through the stanza before Seda scored in the paint and Howell banged home a triple to fuel a mini 5-0 run.

After the Razorbacks cut the Miners’ advantage down to nine (29-20), UTEP struck back with a half-closing 9-0 run to surge into the locker room armed with an 18-point cushion (38-20). Howell scored the first five points of the sequence before Zec finished it off with a jumper and then a pair of free throws with 0.4 seconds left on the clock.

The two teams traded baskets through most of the third quarter, and UTEP looked to be in good shape by holding a 16-point advantage (52-36) heading to the final frame. The margin remained 15 (59-44) with 5:21 to play in the game before Arkansas unleashed an 11-0 run over the next three minutes to get within four (59-55) with 2:57 left in regulation. UTEP made four turnovers in the stretch, and UA also drilled a trio of triples to fuel the run.

Howell reinstated order by draining a long 3-pointer of her own to put the Miners up by seven (62-55) but Arkansas responded by scoring the next six points in the game to get within one. But Cook and company had an answer, allowing UTEP to hold on for the exhilarating victory.

The Miners will have a very quick turnaround as they wrap up play at the Classic by squaring off against Texas Southern at 2:30 p.m. MST Saturday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, which will also grant individuals admission to the first match-up of the day (Arkansas vs. NM State) at 12 p.m.

MINERS TO CONCLUDE UTEP THANKSGIVING CLASSIC VS. TEXAS SOUTHERN

UTEP (3-0) will wrap up play at the Sixth-Annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic by squaring off against Texas Southern (1-3) at 2:30 p.m. MST Saturday. The Miners posted a wire-to-wire 64-61 victory vs. Arkansas on the first day of action at the Classic while the Lady Tigers rallied back from 12 points down against NM State for a 66-50 win in their initial contest at the Classic. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, which includes admission into Arkansas vs. NM State at 12 p.m. MST Saturday. The Miners’ contest will be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio and there will also be a live stream on CUSAtv.com (subscription based). 

INSIDE THE UTEP THANKSGIVING CLASSIC

This is the sixth edition of the UTEP Thanksgiving Classic. The event was held from 2007-10 before a hiatus until its return in 2015. It was not contested last year but is back again in 2017. UTEP is 8-2 all time in its Thanksgiving Classic, including claiming the title in 2009 and 2015. There was no champion in 2007, as day two of action was cancelled to due to snow in the region. Monmouth took home the crown in 2008 while Arkansas was the event champion in 2010. For complete all-time results of the UTEP Thanksgiving Classic please see the chart on page five. 

HOME FOR A WHILE

The tilt is the fourth of a season-opening six-game homestand, with New Mexico (5:30 p.m. Nov. 30) and Houston Baptist (1 p.m. Dec. 2) also on the docket. It ties as the second longest homestand to start a season in program history. 

GAME FORMAT

For the third straight season, NCAA women’s basketball games will be played in four 10-minute quarters. Teams reach the bonus and shoot two free throws on the fifth team foul in each quarter. In the four-quarter format, team fouls reset to zero at the start of each quarter. Teams have four timeouts (three 30s, one 60), three which carry over to the second half. They will be able to advance the ball to the frontcourt after a timeout with less than 59.9 seconds in 4Q. There are seven media timeouts (four under five minutes in quarter/first called), two intermission media timeouts (after first and third quarters) and the first team-called timeout during the second half. Bands or amplified music may play during any dead ball.

CONNECT ON SOCIAL MEDIA          

Fans are encouraged to connect with the Miners on Facebook (UTEP Women’s Basketball), Instagram (@utepwbb) and Twitter (@UTEPWBB). They are also encouraged to use #WeAreMiners in posts.

INSIDE THE SERIES (UTEP LEADS, 6-3 OVERALL; UTEP LEADS 4-1 IN EL PASO)

UTEP is 6-3 all-time against Texas Southern, although the Lady Tigers emerged victorious in El Paso 89-68 last year on Nov. 13, 2016. The Orange and Blue had won six straight in the series prior to falling at home last year. The squads first met in the 1978-79 season, which resulted in a 79-69 Texas Southern victory.

GETTING TO KNOW TEXAS SOUTHERN

Texas Southern has averaged more than 20 wins the past five years, but it is off to a 1-3 start in 2017-18. The Lady Tigers, who were 23-10 a year ago, returned three starters and seven letter winners from that squad. They are led by the explosive Joyce Kennerson (24.0 ppg), but Kaitlyn Palmer (13.5 ppg), Niya Mitchell (8.0) Artavia Ford (6.8 ppg) have also proven to be effective scorers. Mitchell is the top rebounder for the squad at 7.0 rpg but overall TSU has a -4.2 rebounding margin (31.3-40.3). Turnovers have been an issue with the Lady Tigers committing 19.8 per game. TSU has been held to 34.4 percent (72-209) from the floor while allowing the opposition to drain 43.1 percent (103-239) of its shots from the field. It is 93rd nationally in blocked shots per game (4.3) but is in the bottom 300 in the NCAA for eight major stat categories. Texas Southern is a historically black university located in Houston, Texas, which was founded in 1947. Notable alumni include Yolanda Adams (American Grammy and Dove-award winning Gospel music singer and radio show host) and Michael Strahan (former NFL defensive end for the New York Giants and one of the hosts for Good Morning America)

LAST MEETING WITH  TEXAS SOUTHERN: (Texas Southern 89, at UTEP 68, Nov. 13, 2016)

Senior Sparkle Taylor posted her third career double-double (14 points, 13 rebounds) but visiting Texas Southern rode the hot shooting of Kaitlyn Palmer (24 points) to knock off UTEP, 89-68, inside the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 13, 2016. Palmer connected on 8-16 from three-point range to lead a quartet of players in double figures for the Lady Tigers, who managed to counter every run by the Miners to emerge victorious. TSU, which has averaged 20 victories over the past four years, connected on 45.8 (33-72) of its shots while the youth-laden UTEP squad finished at 36.1 percent (27-72) from the floor. The Miners, who have more newcomers (eight) than returnees (five) on the roster for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign, did well to win the boards (49-48) while also forcing 15 turnovers but it wasn’t enough to compensate in other areas. Junior college transfer Axelle Bernard stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, seven rebounds and five blocks in a team-high 34 minutes of action. Freshman Zuzanna Puc nearly recorded a double-double (nine points, 10 rebounds). Freshman Jakeira Ford (nine points, three rebounds), Junior Lulu McKinney (seven points, four assists), junior-college transfer Chanel Khammarath (five points, two steals), freshman Katarina Zec (five points, two rebounds) and sophomore Najala Howell (five points) buoyed the efforts of Taylor.

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HP Sports In-Depth: Undefeated Miners Set for Thanksgiving Classic Friday

UTEP (2-0) will lock up with Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas (3-1) in the sixth edition of the UTEP Thanksgiving Classic at 2:30 p.m. MST Friday.

Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, which will also grant individuals admission into the first match-up of the day, NM State (1-2) vs. Texas Southern (0-2) at 12 p.m.. at the Classic.

The Miners will face Texas Southern at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on the second day of the Classic, with NM State and Arkansas battling at 12 p.m.

Tickets for that match-up are also $5 for adults and $3 for kids, with fans getting in to both games for the price of one.

Each of the Miners’ contests at the event will be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio and there will also be a live stream on CUSAtv.com (subscription-based).

INSIDE THE UTEP THANKSGIVING CLASSIC
This is the sixth edition of the UTEP Thanksgiving Classic. The event was held from 2007-10 before a hiatus until its return in 2015. It was not contested last year but is back again in 2017. UTEP is 7-2 all time in its Thanksgiving Classic, including claiming the title in 2009 and 2015. There was no champion in 2007, as day two of action was cancelled to due to snow in the region.

Monmouth took home the crown in 2008 while Arkansas was the event champion in 2010. For complete all-time results of the UTEP Thanksgiving Classic please see the chart on page five.

HOME FOR A WHILE
The tilt is the third of a season-opening six-game homestand, with Texas Southern (2:30 p.m. Saturday), New Mexico (5:30 p.m. Nov. 30) and Houston Baptist (1 p.m. Dec. 2) also on the docket. It ties as the second longest homestand to start a season in program history.

GAME FORMAT
For the third straight season, NCAA women’s basketball games will be played in four 10-minute quarters. Teams reach the bonus and shoot two free throws on the fifth team foul in each quarter. In the four-quarter format, team fouls reset to zero at the start of each quarter. Teams have four timeouts (three 30s, one 60), three which carry over to the second half. They will be able to advance the ball to the frontcourt after a timeout with less than 59.9 seconds in 4Q. There are seven media timeouts (four under five minutes in quarter/first called), two intermission media timeouts (after first and third quarters) and the first team-called timeout during the second half. Bands or amplified music may play during any dead ball.

CONNECT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Fans are encouraged to connect with the Miners on Facebook (UTEP Women’s Basketball), Instagram (@utepwbb) and Twitter (@UTEPWBB). They are also encouraged to use #WeAreMiners in posts.

INSIDE THE SERIES (ARKANSAS LEADS, 2-0 OVERALL; ARKANSAS LEADS 1-0 IN EL PASO)
Arkansas has won both meetings against the Miners, with the most-recent one coming at the 2010 UTEP Thanksgiving Classic. The Razorbacks edged UTEP, 59-56, on Nov. 27, 2010. During the 1989-90 campaign the Miners were dealt an 87-61 road setback on Nov. 24, 1989, in the first match-up between the programs. UTEP is 10-53 all time vs. teams from a power five conference (at point of match-up), but it is 7-10 since ‘12-13.

GETTING TO KNOW ARKANSAS
Arkansas returned three starters and seven letter winners from last year’s team that finished 13-17, including 2-14 in SEC play. The Razorbacks are off to a quick start in 2017-18, winning three of their first four games. They are led by the tandem of Malica Monk (21.3 ppg-35th nation, 5.0 apg, 4.3 rpg) and Devin Cosper (19.3 ppg-84th nation, 7.8 rpg), but Jailyn Mason (8.5 ppg), Kiara Williams (7.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Taylah Thomas (6.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg-94th nation) have proven to be key contributors. Arkansas leads the nation in fewest turnovers per game (8.5). It also has top-100 NCAA rankings for turnover margin (+6.0-42nd) and blocks per game (5.3) while just missing out for scoring offense (73.8-101st). Individually Monk is 35th in assist to turnover ratio (+4.0) and points per game (21.3) and Cosper is 21st for double-doubles (two). Notable Arkansas alumni include Jerry Jones (owner of the Dallas Cowboys), Butch Davis (former head coach of the Cleveland Browns) and Walter Keller (developer of the heart pacemaker).

LAST MEETING WITH ARKANSAS: (Arkansas 59, at UTEP 56, Nov. 27, 2010)
UTEP gave Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas everything it wanted before ultimately falling, 59-56, in the championship contest of the fourth-annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 27, 2010. Defense was the dominant theme throughout the tilt, one which featured seven ties and 13 lead changes.

The Miners led by as many as seven (twice in the first half), and were up by two (53-51) after junior Dietra Caldwell drained a triple with 5:50 remaining in regulation. Sarah Watkins pulled the Razorbacks even with a jumper and then Lyndsay Harris drilled a three pointer to afford them a three-point edge (56-53) with 4:32 to play in the period. UTEP, which never trailed by more than three points to the unbeaten UA squad, continued to fight. Behind a trio of Kristine Vitola free throws over the next couple of possessions the Miners were able to tie the game at 56 with 1:36 to play.

The Razorbacks regained the advantage, for good as it would turn out, with a make from C’eira Ricketts at the charity stripe. Ricketts knocked down two more free throws in the waning seconds, putting UA up, 59-56, with 11 seconds to play. Junior Briana Green, who tallied 12 points and a team-high five assists, had a chance to tie the contest with a long three-pointer as time expired. The try came up short, though, allowing the Razorbacks to escape El Paso unscathed.

GOING BACK IN TIME (at UTEP 69, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 49 (11/18/17)
UTEP played well in all facets off the game in a convincing 69-49 victory against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 18. The Miners shot 54.3 percent (25-46) from the floor while stifling the Islanders to a readout of 31.1 percent (19-61), including 4-15 (26.7 percent) from distance.

UTEP won the boards (38-30), racked up 19 assists compared to 14 turnovers and led for the majority of the contest. Najala Howell paced the Orange and Blue with 19 points-one shy of a personal best- while also dishing out a career-high seven assists. Katarina Zec (12 points), Tamara Seda (11 points) and Jakeira Ford (10 points) all joined her in double figures for scoring while Jordan Alexander pitched in seven points. Four different Miners grabbed at least five rebounds, with Ford leading the way with six caroms. UTEP led by two (14-12) after the first quarter before outscoring the visitors 35-16 over the next two frames to blow open the game.

BACK-TO-BACK WINS FOR BAKER
Kevin Baker is the first UTEP head coach to open up their tenure in the Sun City at 2-0 since Craig Roden also did so in 1987-88 and just the third overall in program history to achieve feat. Carol Ammerman peeled off four straight victories in 1974-75, which was the first year of the program. Baker is the eighth head coach at the school.

CONSECUTIVE WINS FOR THE MINERS
UTEP has posted back-to-back wins to start the year, something it achieved just once during the 2016-17 season. In fact at 2-0 on the season the Miners are 1/4th of the way to matching last team’s overall win total (8-23). Additionally it marks the 16th 2-0 start to a season in program history.

ZEC’S CONTRIBUTION
Sophomore Katarina Zec tallied 12 points-one shy of her career high- to help the Miners knock off Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Nov. 18. She connected on five field goals, matching her personal best, on nine tries, while also grabbing three rebounds in 31 minutes of action. Overall for the year Zec is contributing 9.0 ppg and 4.5 rpg in 35.0 mpg.

FORD PROVIDES SPARK FROM BENCH
Sophomore Jakeira Ford came off the bench to tally 10 points while grabbing a team-best six rebounds in the win vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Nov. 18. Ford hit 5-6 from the floor to match her career high in field goals while also equaling her personal best in assists with two.

COOK FEELING IT FROM DISTANCE
After shooting 19.3 percent (11-57) from 3-point range as a freshman, Faith Cook has drilled 57.1 percent (4-7) from beyond-the-arc through two games of the 2017-18 season. Included in that was going 3-5 from home run-range in the season-opening win against CSU Bakersfield on Nov. 11. The three triples shattered her previous best of one (11 different games). Overall Cook is accounting for 9.0 ppg after putting up 1.9 ppg a year ago.

SEDA DOMINATING DOWN LOW
Senior Tamara Seda has been a force to be reckoned with early on in 2017-18. She is accounting for 15.5 points per game while shooting a sizzling 70.6 percent (12-17) from the floor. She has also registered four offensive rebounds and taken 12 free throws. She erupted for a career-high 20 points in the season opener vs. CSU Bakersfield on Nov. 11 before pitching in 11 points in the triumph against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

HOWELL PUTTING UP THE POINTS
Junior Najala Howell has reached double figures in scoring in both games this season, including a 19-point effort (one shy of her career high) last time out against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Nov. 18. Overall she ranks second on the team in scoring (14.5 ppg) and in field-goal percentage (55.6).

ALEXANDER GETTING AFTER IT
Junior Jordan Alexander, one of two newcomers on this year’s squad, is looking like a difference maker. She paces the team in rebounding (7.5 rpg), free-throws made (13) and attempted (17) while ranking third in scoring (11.0 ppg). All 15 of her rebounds have been at the defensive end, which has helped the Miners produce a +7.0 (37.0-30.0) rebounding margin.

SHARING THE ROCK
UTEP has registered 36 assists on its 46 field goals made (78.3 percent) thus far in 2017-18. Sophomore Najala Howell is leading the way with 10 assists (5.0 apg), which was aided by dishing out a career-high seven helpers vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Nov. 18.

KNOCKING DOWN SHOTS
UTEP has drilled better than 50.0 percent from the floor in the first two games of the season for the initial occasion since at least 1982-83 (prior records incomplete). Overall the Miners are connecting on 52.9 percent (46-87) from the floor, which was aided by drilling a campaign-high 54.3 percent (25-46) last time out in the win vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

GETTING AFTER IT ON DEFENSE
For the first time 2004-05, the Miners have held their first two opponents on the year to below 33.0 percent from the floor. Overall foes have hit just 32.0 percent (39-122), including a readout of 26.2 percent (11-42) on 3-point attempts.

POINTS AT A PREMIUM FOR THE OPPOSITION
Each of the first two Miner opponents have been held to fewer than 60 points, something that hasn’t happened at the onset of a season since 2012-13. UTEP limited CSU Bakersfield to 56 points in the campaign lid lifter on Nov. 11 before tightening things up to the tune of yielding only 49 points against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Nov. 18.

SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST
After scoring 37 points through three quarters of action, the Miners erupted for 30 points over the final 10 minutes to erase an eight-point deficit and rally past CSU Bakersfield on Nov. 11. The 30 points are the most scored in the fourth quarter by the Miners in program history and rank tied for fifth-most points in a quarter overall at the school.

MORE ON THAT FINAL FRAME
UTEP shot a sizzling 80 percent (8-10) from the floor in the fourth quarter while limiting CSUB to 18.8 percent (3-16). But perhaps the stat that jumps out above any other over the final 10 minutes is rebounding. UTEP had a whopping 16-2 advantage on the glass in the period, helping it turn a 28-20 deficit in the department through three quarters of action into a final 36-30 margin. UTEP also limited its turnovers to four after entering with 17.

STAUNCH DEFENSE TO START
UTEP yielded only five points in the opening quarter of action in the eventual win against CSU Bakersfield on Nov. 11. It set the program standard for fewest points allowed in the first quarter and tied as third for fewest points in a quarter overall.

PLENTY OF PLAYING TIME TO GO AROUND
With Zuzanna Puc sidelined for an injury for the first two games, the Miners had only nine active players in the wins vs. CSU Bakersfield and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The result has been five individuals (Katarina Zec-35.0, Najala Howell-34.5, Jordan Alexander-29.0, Tamara Seda-28.0 and Faith Cook-28.0) logging at least 28.0 minutes per game and two others (Jordan Jenkins-18.5 and Jakeira Ford-17.0) securing at least 17.0 minutes per contest. Roeshonda Patterson (10.0 mpg) is also accounting for double digits playing time per tilt.

IN THE NCAA RANKINGS
The Miners have top-100 NCAA team rankings for field-goal percentage (52.9-seventh), 3-point field-goal percentage (45.5-eighth), field-goal percentage defense (32.0-20th), scoring defense (52.5-24th),assists per game (18.0-47th), 3-point field-goal percentage defense (26.2-70th), fewest personal fouls per game (16.0-72nd), scoring margin (+15.5-73rd), assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.03-91st) and rebound margin (+7.0-93rd). Tamara Seda is 13th in field-goal percentage (70.6) and Faith Cook is 36th for 3-point field-goal percentage (57.1).

GETTING TO KNOW THE 2017-18 MINERS
UTEP returned eight letter winners (Faith Cook, Jakeira Ford, Najala Howell, Roeshonda Patterson, Zuzanna Puc, Tamara Seda, Rachel Tapps and Katarina Zec) from last year’s squad (8-23, 5-11 Conference USA). Puc, Seda and Zec all started for UTEP in 2016-17. The Miners also added four newcomers (Jordan Alexander, Ariona Gill, Jordan Jenkins and Neidy Ocuane) but Gill and Ocuane are slated to take a redshirt year in 2017-18. The squad is under the direction of first-year head coach Kevin Baker, who is assisted by first-year assistants Nicole Dunson, Michael Madrid and Lori Morris.

ROSTER BREAKDOWN
Head coach Kevin Baker inherited a young team, with 60% of the active roster (6-of-10) comprised of sophomores (Faith Cook, Jakeira Ford, Roeshonda Patterson, Zuzanna Puc, Rachel Tapps and Katarina Zec). The Miners have just three upperclassmen, in the form of one senior (Tamara Seda) to go along with returning junior Najala Howell and junior-college transfer Jordan Alexander. Freshman Jordan Jenkins rounded out the active roster. Two other newcomers (junior-college transfers Ariona Gill and Neidy Ocuane) are sitting out the 2017-18 season as redshirts.

NEW FACES
The Miners have four newcomers to the squad in 2017-18 though two of the additions (junior Ariona Gill, 5-11, G/F, San Jacinto College) and junior Neidy Ocuane (5-5, G, Seward County CC) are redshirting the 2017-18 season. Junior Jordan Alexander (5-11, F, Trinity Valley CC) and true freshman Jordan Jenkins (5-3, G, Buffalo HS) both started the season opener are expected to remain significant contributors throughout the year. Last year Alexander helped TVCC qualify for its 10th straight trip to the national tournament and finish with an overall record of 30-6. She put up 6.5 points per game while also grabbing 2.5 rebounds per game. Jenkins averaged 20 points, eight steals, seven assists and six rebounds to help her squad earn runner-up honors in Texas 2017 in the UIL 3A playoffs. Ocuane paced her team in assists per game (4.7) and steals per game (2.4) while ranking fourth in scoring (11.2). Her efforts helped it win the program’s first conference title in eight years.

NOTING THE SCHEDULE
The return of the UTEP Thanksgiving Classic and a 16-game Conference USA slate, match-ups against both New Mexico and NM State and non-conference contests against power league members Arkansas, East Carolina and Georgetown highlight the 2017-18 UTEP women’s basketball schedule. There are also games against three teams that played in the 2017 NCAA Tournament (NM State, Texas Southern and WKU) and four from the 2017 Postseason WNIT (Georgetown, LA Tech, Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss)

THE BAKER FILE
Kevin Baker was appointed as the eighth head coach in UTEP women’s basketball history on Monday, April 24, 2017. He has a unique background which has seen him rise through the coaching ranks from high school level, to NCAA Division III, then NCAA Division II and now his NCAA Division I position at UTEP. Throughout his ascent, though, he has consistently found a way to win. He is 346-131 overall in his 16th year as a head coach, including 124-30 in his sixth season as a college head coach. He has set school records for wins at every stop of his career, and has taken every school to the playoffs with a total of five district championships. He is an eight-time Coach of the Year. In his stops most recently prior to UTEP, Baker’s teams captured back-to-back conference championships at UT-Tyler and Angelo State. Baker has led both a Division II (Angelo State) and Division III (UT-Tyler) school to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

HISTORY OF FIRST-YEAR COACHES AT UTEP
In terms of success rate in the first season on the sidelines, Carol Ammerman (11-5, 1974-75) and Janet Wood (11-16, 1979-80) share the platform for most victories by a Miner head coach in their initial campaign. Ammerman’s effort came in the first year of the program, and is also the lone winning record by a first-year Miner head coach in school history. Overall the prior seven head coaches at UTEP are a combined 54-120 (8-17 average record). Needless to say, Kevin Baker is hoping to buck that trend in 2017-18.

EXPERIENCED STAFF
While head coach Kevin Baker and his three assistants (Nicole Dunson, Michael Madrid and Lori Morris) are in their first year at UTEP, they brought plenty of coaching experience to the Sun City. The quartet entered the 2017-18 season with a combined 93 years of coaching experience (Morris-37 years, Baker-23 years, Madrid-22 years and Dunson-11 years).

BASIC FACTS ON THE PROGRAM
UTEP is 549-648 in its 44th season as a women’s basketball program, including 2-0 in 2017-18. The Miners have made four postseason bids (2016,-WNIT quarterfinals; 2014-WNIT runner-up, 2012-NCAA first round and 2008-NCAA second round), sporting a combined record of 9-4 (8-2 WNIT, 1-2 NCAA).

UTEP has claimed four league championships (2016 C-USA regular season, 2012 C-USA regular season and conference tournament and 2008 C-USA regular season). It has a 1-1 record all time in league tournament title games, winning the title in 2012 and falling in 2008. There have been six 20+ win seasons (all since 2006-07), including four of the past six years. UTEP has cracked the top-25 poll in two seasons (2015-16, 2007-08), including being ranked in the final six weeks in ‘07-08, while receiving votes in eight campaigns total (‘15-16, ‘13-14, ‘12-13, ‘11-12, ‘08-09, ‘07-08 and ‘06-07).

The Miners have been mentioned in the AP Preseason Poll four times, including garnering three points in 2016-17. In 2008 UTEP became the first C-USA women’s team to finish undefeated in league play (16-0) while claiming the program’s initial league title in 2008. The Miners finished 15-1 in C-USA in 2012 in addition to also winning the program’s first conference tournament championship. UTEP owns the C-USA single-season record for winning streak at 23, which was set in 2007-08.

The University of Texas at El Paso (founded in 1914) recently enjoyed its centennial celebration. Notable alumni include former ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Sam Donaldson, well-respected NFL referee Ed Hochuli, former NASA astronaut Danny Olivas engineer & Dennis Poon, who designed Taipei 101 & some of the tallest buildings in the world.

THIRD-BEST IN TEXAS SINCE 2006-07
The Miners have the third-highest winning percentage among all DI programs in Texas since ‘06-07. Baylor (352-52, 87.1%), and Texas A&M (285-99, 74.2%) lead the way followed by UTEP (231-120, 65.8%). Texas (237-133, 64.1%-4th), Lamar (212-136, 60.9%-5th), Stephen F. Austin (204-140, 59.3%-6th), TCU (202-151, 57.2%-7th), SMU (187-159, 54.0%-8th), Prairie View A&M (190-163, 53.8%-9th) and Texas Tech (180-174, 50.8%-10th) round out the top 10.

SPECIAL RUN
The Miners are 131-66 since the start of the 2011-12 season, with 79 double-digit victories in that time frame. UTEP has played postseason basketball in three of the past six seasons, making two deep runs in the WNIT (2014 runner-up, 2016 quarterfinals) and earning the C-USA automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament (lost, first round). It is has enjoyed 14 separate winning streaks of at least three games during that time frame.

HOME SWEET HOME
UTEP has an all-time home record of 353-214, including standing 2-0 this year. The Miners have amassed a record of 155-40 at home since 2006-07, including 88-23 since 2011-12. Aiding that 88-23 record over the past six years was a school-record 19-1 home mark in 2015-16. The match-up against Arkansas is the third of 16 regular-season tilts at the Don Haskins Center in 2017-18. UTEP has been particularly strong in non-conference play, sporting a record of 77-11 at home in the situation since 2006-07.

ALL ABOUT THE FANS
The Miners received tremendous support to help propel them to a pair of deep runs in the WNIT (2014 runner-up honors, 2016 quarterfinals) in the past four years. UTEP averaged 7,773 fans per game during the 10 WNIT contests (8-2 record) in El Paso. Aiding those numbers were back-to-back sellouts , the first in program history, in the semifinals and finals of the 2014 WNIT. The Miners have ranked in the top-50 nationally for attendance in three of the past six years.

UTEP placed 28th in 2013-14 (3,793 avg.), 42nd in 2012-13 (2,708 avg.) and 46th in 2011-12 (2,639 avg.). The Miners are 28-10 when playing in front of 4,000+ fans since 2001-02. They are 25-3 in the situation at the Don Haskins Center and 3-7 when doing so on the road.

TRAVEL TIME
UTEP is 139-355 all time on the road, including a record of 1-9 during the 2016-17 season. When playing at a neutral site the Miners stand 57-78, including five losses to power-five programs last season. Since the start of the 2006-07 season UTEP is 57-62 on the road, including 33-31 since 2011-12.

CAREER ACHIEVEMENTS
Redshirt-senior Tamara Seda ranks sixth at UTEP in blocked shots (70), tied 10th in double-doubles (11) and tied 25th in rebounds (433).

2016-17 IN REVIEW
UTEP went through a rebuilding year in 2016-17, finishing with a record of 8-23, including 5-13 in Conference USA play, before bowing out in the first round of the 2017 C-USA Championships. The youth-laden Miners lost all five starters from the 2015-16 season and returned only four letter winners from that squad, giving them a new look for the year. UTEP played its most challenging non-conference schedule in program history with a single-season school-record five games against teams from power five conferences. It went 0-5 in those contests while finishing 3-4 vs. non power league programs in non-conference play. Overall UTEP was saddled with a 2-9 start to the year before going 3-3 over the next six games. The Miners then lost a season-long six straight and eight of the next nine before posting back-to-back victories. UTEP dropped its final two games of the regular season and was upended by sixth-seeded Old Dominion in the first round of the C-USA Championships, 80-70.

CLIFF NOTES ON THE 2017-18 SEASON
UTEP RALLIES PAST CSU BAKERSFIELD IN OPENER, 67-56
at UTEP 67, CSU Bakersfield 56 (11/11/17)
UTEP used a huge fourth quarter to rally past CSU Bakersfield, 67-56, in the 2017-18 season opener for both squads at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 11. The Roadrunners led by eight (45-37) through three quarters of action but the Miners opened up the final frame on an 13-1 run to help fuel a dominant 30-11 advantage over the last 10 minutes of action. Senior Tamara Seda (20 points), junior Jordan Alexander (15 points) and sophomore Faith Cook (14 points) each established career highs to lead the way for the Miners, who were victorious in head coach Kevin Baker’s Division I coaching debut. Junior Najala Howell (10 points) also reached double digits in scoring for UTEP, which nailed 51.2 percent (21-41) from the floor and 42.9 percent (6-14) from beyond-the-arc. Alexander, who played her freshman year at DI Louisiana before transferring to Trinity Valley, grabbed a personal-best 10 boards for her first career double-double while Seda added eight caroms. UTEP won the rebounding battle, 36-30, which was aided by a whopping 16-2 advantage in the fourth quarter. The Miners held CSUB to 32.8 percent (20-61) from the floor.

START IT OFF STRONG
UTEP improved to 24-20 all time in season openers, including 21-7 when doing so in El Paso. Overall in home openers, the Miners now stand 28-14 (missing outcomes in some years).

RECAPPING THE EXHIBITION SEASON
For the first time since the 2007-08 season, the Miners played a pair of exhibition games to prepare for the regular season. UTEP split the contests, drilling NCAA Division III member Sul Ross State, 99-40, on Oct. 29, while falling to NCAA Division II member St. Mary’s (Texas), 68-62, on Nov. 4. Katarina Zec (17.5 points per game) was the top point producer for the Miners but four others (Tamara Seda-16.5 ppg, Najala Howell-15.0 ppg, Jordan Alexander-11.0 ppg and Jakeira Ford-11.0 ppg) also averaged double figures in scoring. As a team UTEP shot 45.5 percent (56-123) from the floor while holding its foes to 30.9 percent (38-123). The Miners excelled at the free-throw line (35-42, 83.3 percent) and also dominated the rebounding department (51.0 rebounds per game to 27.5 opponent rebounds per game).

A recap of each of the contests is below.

St. Mary’s (Texas) 68, at UTEP 62 (11/4/17)
Five different Miners reached double figures in scoring but visiting NCAA Division II St. Mary’s (Texas) used a barrage of three pointers to down UTEP, 68-62, in an exhibition contest at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 4. The Miners were clicking on all cylinders early with a 22-point first quarter, which helped propel them to a 35-27 advantage at the half. The visiting Rattlers came out firing after the break, eventually pulling ahead by 12 (61-49) with 7:36 to play in the game. UTEP scored the game’s next 10 points to help fuel a 13-1 run to even the tilt at 62 with 2:25 remaining. But St. Mary’s, which finished 21-7 a year ago, received back-to-back triples from Sierra Dixon to decide the game. The long-distance hits were part of 14 on the day for St. Mary’s, including five alone in the final frame. Jordan Alexander (14 points) led a quintet of Miners in double figures offensively, with Katarina Zec (12 points), Najala Howell (12 points), Tamara Seda (10 points) and Jakeira Ford (10 points) joining her. Seda pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds for a double-double, which also helped UTEP win the boards, 46-33. UTEP shot it reasonably well at 40.7 percent (24-59), but it struggled from beyond-the-arc at 26.7 percent (4-15). While the Miners held St. Mary’s to 35.4 percent shooting (23-65), they allowed the Rattlers to drill 14-of-31 (45.2 percent) from downtown.

at UTEP 99, Sul Ross State 40 (10/29/17)
UTEP raced out to a 52-17 halftime lead and never looked back on the way to a 99-40 exhibition win against Division III Sul Ross State at the Don Haskins Center on Oct. 29. Senior Tamara Seda dominated with a monstrous double-double (23 points, 15 rebounds) while sophomore Katarina Zec (23 points, nine boards) and junior Najala Howell (18 points, seven rebounds) also had big days. Seda also added four blocks and four steals. The Miners shot 50.0 percent (32-64) from the floor, including 45.5 percent (10-22) from distance, while also nailing 86.2 percent (25-29) at the charity stripe. It was a different story for the visiting Lady Lobos, who were harassed into 22 turnovers and held to 25.9 percent (15-58) from the floor. UTEP also took care of business on the boards, outrebounding Sul Ross State, 56-22. Seda led the way with a game-high 15 boards while Jordan Alexander pulled down 11 caroms. Alexander added eight points in her Miner debut. An area of concern for UTEP was turnovers with 19, but 14 of those came in the first half.

Appalachian State Finishes Off UTEP Late at Myrtle Beach 76-72

UTEP erased a 14-point deficit with a 22-2 run to start the second half, but Appalachian State made the big plays down the stretch in a 76-72 victory over the Miners on Sunday morning at Myrtle Beach.

The Miners (1-3) dropped three games at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, with two losses coming by a total of six points.

“I’d like to congratulate App State.  I thought they played really well,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “They shot the ball exceedingly well in the first half, making eight threes.  We didn’t close to them very well.  We did a much better job in the second half of guarding the three-point line.  We did a much better job defensively in the second half.”

Appalachian State (3-2) shot 8-for-18 from outside in the first half in surging to a 42-28 lead.  But UTEP opened the second half with 16 unanswered points, including a couple of three-pointers by Keith Frazier, to take its first lead at 44-42.

After the Mountaineers’ Justin Forrest tied the game with a couple of free throws, the Miners scored nine of the next 11 and took their biggest lead of the day, 53-46, on another three-pointer by Frazier with 12:38 to go.

The Miners still led by seven (60-53) with a little over eight minutes remaining before Appalachian State mounted its comeback.  The Mountaineers tied it at 62 with 5:52 remaining on a layup by Ronshad Shabazz, and went ahead for good (67-66) on a three-pointer by O’Showen Williams with 4:19 left.

After Appalachian State instated a five-point lead (73-68) in the final minute, the Miners pulled within two (73-71) when Omega Harris was fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three free throws.  Shabazz missed two foul shots, and Frazier went to the line with a chance to tie it with eight seconds on the clock.  He made the first and missed the second.  Williams converted two free throws to make it 75-72.  The Miners’ last chance to cut into the lead ended when Isiah Osborne missed the front end of a one-and-one with four seconds remaining.

“There are some great lessons to be taken for our team, one being down 14 going into the second half and being able to close it in a four-and-a-half minute period just by simply defending, getting back on defense, guarding and not turning it over,” Floyd said.  “[We had] some costly turnovers in the first half.  I thought they kicked us around on the glass on both ends all night.  Their guard play was terrific between Williams, Forrest and Shabazz.”

Frazier scored a game-high 25 points after originally being ruled out with a foot injury.  Matt Willms added 18 points and Omega Harris had 10.

Williams scored 19 points, Shabazz 12 and Craig Hinton 11 for Appalachian State.  Forrest had 10 rebounds as the Mountainers dominated the Miners on the glass, 43-29.

The Miners scored 25 points off turnovers (21 in the second half), helping to neutralize the Mountaineers’ 10-for-27 night from downtown.

“We’re growing as a basketball team, still trying to figure out combinations,” Floyd said.  “We’ve got a couple of guys really banged up.  We’re a couple of free throws missed from having a chance to be 3-0 in this thing, and we didn’t get that accomplished late by stepping up to the line and just making one.  If Keith makes his last one, it’s a tie ballgame and a different game in terms of how you’re going to play.  But anyhow, that’s not the case.  We’re 0-3 in this thing and the road gets tougher for us.  We go back and play some really quality teams both at home and on the road.”

The Miners will take on I-10 rival NM State in Las Cruces on Saturday (Nov. 25) at 7 p.m.

UTEP Cruises Past Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 69-49

UTEP played well in all facets off the game in a convincing 69-49 victory against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at the Don Haskins Center Saturday evening.

The Miners (2-0) shot 54.3 percent (25-46) from the floor while stifling the Islanders to a readout of 31.1 percent (19-61), including 4-15 (26.7 percent) from distance. UTEP won the boards (38-30), racked up 19 assists compared to 14 turnovers and led for the majority of the contest.

Najala Howell paced the Orange and Blue with 19 points-one shy of a personal best- while also dishing out a career-high seven assists. Katarina Zec (12 points), Tamara Seda (11 points) and Jakeira Ford (10 points) all joined her in double figures for scoring while Jordan Alexander pitched in seven points.

Four different Miners grabbed at least five rebounds, with Ford leading the way with six caroms.

UTEP led by two (14-12) after the first quarter before outscoring the visitors 35-16 over the next two frames to blow open the game.

Dae Dae Evans came off the bench to lead the Islanders with 13 points.

“To coach against Coach Chadwick was an honor,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “He’s a class act and does a great job and has for 30 years. I thought it was a complete game and probably our best game start to finish all year. We practiced really hard this week. We put in a lot of effort to prepare, and I thought it paid off in a really, really big way for our team.”

Visiting Texas A&M-Corpus Christi raced out to a 5-0 over the first two minutes of the game, and it was up by 6 (10-4) midway through the opening stanza. UTEP had an answer, though, in the form of 9-0 run to surge into the lead. As it turned out, the Miners would never trail again.

Howell got things going with the old-fashioned three-point play, which was followed by a baseline jumper from Ford. After the Miners forced a turnover, Faith Cook drilled a transition triple.

The Islanders regrouped and were within two (16-14) with 8:42 to play in the second quarter before UTEP ripped off seven consecutive points. The margin swelled to as many as 11 (27-16) before the Orange and Blue entered the locker room leading by 10 (28-18).

The Miners carried that momentum into the third quarter by scoring the first seven points of the frame to lead by 17 (35-18). The margin was 16 (40-24) with 3:13 left in the period before another 7-0 ballooned to Orange and Blue advantage to 23 (49-26). Texas A&M-Corpus Christi continued to battle the rest of the way but it could never get closer than 19 points down the stretch.

The Miners will return to action when they play host to the sixth-annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic Friday, with Arkansas, NM State and Texas Southern comprising the field.

Fans can get a preview of that event while also getting caught up on UTEP’s 2-0 to the season with the Kevin Baker Radio Show from 6-7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Courtyard Marriot Airport (6610 International Dr.).

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