UTEP Guard Avery Crouse | Photo by Darrell James/LA Tech Athletics
RUSTON, La. – UTEP women’s basketball (7-5, 4-3 C-USA) snapped a three-game Louisiana Tech (9-4, 4-3 C-USA) winning streak as the Miners edged the Lady Techsters, 61-58, to open the series on Friday night in front of 1,200 in attendance at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston.
The Miners were led by sophomore guard Avery Crouse, who provided a spark offensively and led all scorers with a season-high 17 points to go along with six rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals. Senior Michelle Pruitt put together an impressive night on the boards, recording a career-high 12 rebounds, while also adding eight points in the win.
Isis Lopes was 5-of-12 from the field with 13 points, two rebounds and three assists, while Katia Gallegos put together a balanced attack with seven points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
LA Tech opened the game on a 7-0 run that forced UTEP head coach Kevin Baker to call a pair of timeouts early on in the first quarter, but the Miners quickly regrouped and answered with a 16-5 run of their own to take the lead. From there, UTEP did not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game with the Miners leading for the remaining 31 minutes left in the contest.
UTEP opened the second quarter just like the first – with an Isis Lopes three-pointer to help the Miners jump out to a 7-0 run to open the period. The Miners followed up with a five-minute scoreless drought, shooting just 1-of-11 during that stretch, but UTEP’s defense stood tall and also forced LA Tech scoreless over that period. The Miners snapped the scoreless streak with a jumper from Destiny Thurman with 24 seconds remaining in the half for a 27-23 halftime lead.
In the third, UTEP shot 5-of-14 from the field and held off a LA Tech offensive rally to out-score the Lady Techsters, 19-16, in the quarter and remain ahead on the scoreboard. Following three offensive rebounds, Crouse came through with a three-pointer with four seconds left in the quarter. On the next possession, with just 0.4 second left on the clock, Crouse drew a foul shooting a last-second shot and hit all three free throws to make it a 7-point game with the Miners ahead, 46-39.
LA Tech shot 43.8 percent in the fourth and final quarter, going 7-of-16 from the field and out-scoring UTEP, 19-15, in the frame with the help of a 6-1 run to cut the lead to 51-47 in favor of the Miners with just over five minutes to play. Following a media timeout, LA Tech made it a one-possesion game with a field goal in the paint by Keiunna Walker, but Crouse came through with a three-pointer, her second of the game, to extend the lead once again.
LA Tech continued to fight back late in the fourth with the help five free throws in six attempts, but the Miners held off a late rally by the Techsters, including a game-tying three-point attempt by Amber Dixon with one second remaining, to clinch the road victory.
The win at Louisiana Tech marks UTEP’s first win in Ruston since the 2015-16 season, while it is also UTEP’s first Conference USA road win since Feb. 20, 2020 at UTSA. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak to the Lady Techsters.
Next up, UTEP will take on Louisiana Tech at 3 p.m. MT on Saturday, Jan. 23 at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston in the second game of the weekend series.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN 600 El Paso with Tim Hagerty calling all the action. The contest will also be available to stream on CUSA.TV for subscribers.