Katia Gallegos (season-high 19 points), Avery Crouse (13), Destiny Thurman (12) and Teal Battle (10) each hit double figures as the UTEP women’s basketball team improved to 4-0 after axing Northern Arizona (1-3), 72-62, on Saturday night in front of 814 fans at the Haskins Center.
UTEP is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2017-18, head coach Kevin Baker‘s initial season on the sidelines in the Sun City. All four wins have been by double figures, something that hasn’t happened to begin the year since the Miners’ last Conference USA Championship team did so during the 2015-16 campaign.
Gallegos got off to a scorching start, scoring nine points in the first quarter. Overall, she shot 8-of-10 from the floor, grabbed seven boards and dished out a team-high five assists. Gallegos reached double figures in scoring for the fourth consecutive contest, one game shy of matching the longest streak of her career.
Elina Arike muscled her way to a game-high 13 rebounds, her second double-digit rebounding game this season. She added seven points with an assist, two steals and a blocked shot.
Crouse added three boards, three steals and a blocked shot to her stat line. The Miners totaled nine steals on the evening.
Overall, UTEP shot 44.8 percent (30-67) and 7-of-10 from the foul line. The Miners outrebounded NAU, 43-30 and forced 19 Lumberjack turnovers.
“I was really pleased with the first half, and how we came out ready to play,” Baker said. “We really worked hard on the scouting and it really paid off. I’m just so pleased with that start. But I’m also pleased how we were able to hold on against a very good team, a very well-coached team that we knew was going to make a run at us.”
After NAU had tied the score 7-7 after a Nina Radford 3-pointer at the 6:23 mark, the Miners took control of the quarter. Avery Crouse answered with a driving layup and the Miners would outscore the Lumberjacks 13-4 down the stretch of the first quarter to take a 20-11 advantage.
UTEP outscored NAU 24-13 in the second quarter, and took a 44-24 lead into the locker room. Gallegos scored 15 points in the first half on 6-of-7 shooting.
NAU made a push in the second half, chopping away at the lead and outscoring UTEP 38-28. The Miners were up by as much as 19 points in the third quarter. But Lauren Orndoff cut the deficit to nine points (64-55) after making a pair of free throws with 3:31 remaining in the contest. However, Battle answered by sinking a pair of free throws of her own, and Crouse scored on a driving layup to extend the lead to 13 points with just over two minutes to play.
NAU shot just over 41 percent (23-56) and 7-of-19 from 3-point distance. Emily Rodabaugh led the Lumberjacks with 15 points off the bench, while Miki’alo Maio dished out a game-high seven assists. Khiarica Rasheed tallied nine boards to lead NAU.
UTEP will travel to Sin City to compete in the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout on Nov. 26-27. The Miners will take on Seattle U. on Friday (5 p.m. MT/4 PT), and against Kansas on Saturday (5 p.m. MT/4 PT).
Fans can tune into “The Home of UTEP Basketball” 600 ESPN El Paso or the UTEP Miners App to hear Mando Medina call the action.
Photos by Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post