Photo by Ruben R. Ramirez | El Paso Herald Post
For the second time in two weeks, UTEP women’s basketball (3-0, 0-0 C-USA) toppled cross-border rival New Mexico State (1-2, 0-0 WAC) 81-73 in overtime Wednesday evening in the Don Haskins Center after trailing with under five minutes in regulation.
This marks the second consecutive season the Miners have swept the Aggies and the fifth overtime game between the two programs in series history.
“Our kids really want to be successful,” said UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker. “They see that the clock (is) ticking down and they know it’s time to step up their game and do well. … They’re showing some real toughness here and some real character.”
UTEP trailed NM State by eight points at the 5:20 mark in the fourth quarter until senior forward Michelle Pruitt brought the Miners back to life scoring six consecutive points. Pruitt pulled down her second offensive rebound of the game (sixth total) and followed with a putback layup. Pruitt scored on the next two offensive possessions with a jumper and layup to make it a one-score game, finishing her night with 10 points.
Sophomore guard Avery Crouse capped off the 7-0 run with a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:48 left to play to give the Miners their first lead of the game. After the Aggies took the lead, 66-65, they fouled Crouse with a second remaining. She would miss the first but tie the game with her second attempt.
In overtime, Gallegos knocked down her first go-ahead 3-pointer of the extra five minutes, 69-68. Junior guard Sabine Lipe – who finished with nine points and eight rebounds – swiped her first steal of overtime with the game tied, 71-71. Lipe found Gallegos for her fourth assist while Gallegos knocked down her next go-ahead 3-pointer, 74-71 – this time giving the Miners the lead for good.
“They seem to excel with the clock ticking down and a lot of it has to do with the ball being in (Gallegos’) hands and her being a playmaker,” Baker said.
Gallegos ended the night with 26 points at a 50 percent clip, six assists, five rebounds and five steals in a career-high 41 minutes. Gallegos is averaging 21.3 points through three games.
Crouse redeemed herself at the free throw line with a minute, 20 seconds left, swishing both. She finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
“Avery Crouse misses a big free throw in regulation but comes back to make huge free throws in overtime,” Baker said. “I’m really glad she was afforded the opportunity to make up for that.”
To begin the game, NM State went on a six-point run thanks to extend its lead to 12-6. Eight UTEP turnovers which were turned into nine Aggie points did not help matters. NM State guard Aaliyah Prince finished the first half with 20 points.
Prince was limited to only five points in the second half.
OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES
Michelle Pruitt: 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists. DejaNae Roebuck: Career-high 39 minutes, 14 points, four steals and eight rebounds.
Next up, the Miners travel to Logan, Utah, on Dec. 13 for their first official road contest of the season with Utah State.
For complete coverage of UTEP women’s basketball, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPWBB (Twitter), @utepwbb (Instagram) and on Facebook or visit the official home of UTEP Athletics.
Gallery by Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post