Photo by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer – El Paso Herald Post
The UTEP women’s basketball team will tip off the 2019-20 season when it plays host to UC Riverside at 7 p.m. MT Saturday.
Fans who buy a ticket to the UTEP football game against Charlotte (1 p.m. MT Saturday) may bring that ticket to the Don Haskins Center to get a group ticket price for entrance into the UCR contest. Otherwise tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, and may be bought by calling (915) 747-5234.
The game will be streamed on CUSA.TV (subscription based) and broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso.
UTEP is 25-20 all time in season openers, including 21-7 when doing so in El Paso. Overall in home openers, the Miners stand 28-14 (missing outcomes in some years). They are 2-0 under Head Coach Kevin Baker in season lidlifters.
“UC Riverside had a great season last year. They have four starters back. They are very, very impressive. They’re playing at New Mexico, at NM State and then come down to play us. They’re not shying away from competition,” stated Coach Baker.
UTEP leads the series, 2-1, with the two squads set to square off for the second time in the past three years. Most recently UTEP emerged with a 73-62 road win against the Highlanders on Dec. 30, 2017. The first two match-ups were both in El Paso.
UCR claimed the first game, 63-61, on Dec. 16, 2000, but most recently UTEP secured a 68-57 triumph on Nov. 27, 2015.
LAST MEETING WITH UCR: (UTEP 73, AT UCR 62, Dec. 30, 2017)
Najala Howell poured in a career-high 23 points while Tamara Seda notched her second straight double-double (21 points, 14 rebounds) to help power UTEP to a wire-to-wire 73-62 win at UC Riverside on Dec. 30, 2017.
The Miners bolted out to a 20-point lead at the half and led by 17 with six minutes to play before the Highlanders scored the next 12 points in the game to cut the margin down to five (67-62). UTEP kept its composure while regaining momentum for good on a triple by Howell to help fuel a game-closing 6-0 run.
Faith Cook, who finished with seven points and six assists, set up both field goals down the stretch. UTEP connected on 43.9 percent (29-66) from the floor, aided by drilling 20-36 during the impressive opening half. The Miners dished out a season-high 20 assists while finishing with a season-low 14 turnovers for the second time in as many nights.
Zuzanna Puc joined Howell and Seda in double figures for scoring with a campaign-high 15 points in 25 minutes of action off the pine.
UTEP prepped for the 2019-20 season by posting a pair of victories against Division II opponents in exhibition contests. The Miners downed Eastern New Mexico, 84-64, (Oct. 26), while also besting St. Mary’s (TX) (Nov. 2), 59-47.
Katarina Zec averaged 20.5 points per game to lead the unit, with transfer Michelle Pruitt (10.5 ppg) also checking in for double figures. UTEP had a +9.0 rebounding margin (41.5-32.5) during the contests. The Miners also forced 24.0 turnovers per game, which made up for the opposition hitting 41.2 percent (42-102) from the floor in the two contests.
UTEP will play a total of 18 home games in 2019-20, which will be the most in the regular season for the Miners since also doing so in 2006-07. UTEP will be home for nine of its 11 non-conference games, the exceptions being matchups at I-10 rival NM State (Nov. 13) and SMU (Dec. 19).
The first nine games of the season will either be played in El Paso or within 40 miles of it, until the Miners board a plane for the first time to battle the Mustangs in the Metroplex. There will then be nine C-USA contests at the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners returned three starters and seven letter winners from a year ago, including senior guard/forward Katarina Zec (10.1 ppg/4.4 rpg/1.9 apg), senior guard/forward Ariona Gill (8.7 ppg/4.4 rpg), sophomore forward Ariana Taylor (5.9 ppg), senior guard/forward Jade Rochelle (4.0 ppg/4.7 rpg), senior guard Neidy Ocuane (4.0 ppg/1.8 apg) and sophomore guard Sabine Lipe (3.2 ppg and 2.3 rpg).
UTEP brought in seven newcomers (junior college transfers Tia Bradshaw, Michelle Pruitt and DejaNae Roebuck, and freshmen Avery Crouse, Katia Gallegos, Arina Khlopkova and Tatyana Modawar) to bolster the unit.
The group features three top-100 JUCO players, including two All-Americans, and four high school standouts that produced a combined record of 105-27 at their respective schools.
The squad is under the direction of third-year head coach Kevin Baker, who is assisted by Todd Buchanan, Anthony Anderson and Heather Karner.