Senior Jade Rochelle provided a huge spark off the bench by setting career highs in points (15) and steals (six) to help the UTEP women’s basketball team topple Weber State, 70-51, at the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game we played all year and it wasn’t the best game we played all year but wins come in all shapes and sizes,” head coach Kevin Baker said. “You have to take the ugly ones when you have to. We started off the game slow and didn’t have much energy. I’m really proud of the team for fighting through. They toughed it out. You’ve got to give Weber State credit too. They played really well at times.”
Katarina Zec (15 points) and Katia Gallegos (12 points) also reached double figures in the Miners’ (7-1) fourth consecutive win. The Wildcats (1-5) put up quite a fight, but UTEP had enough in the tank to continue its best start to a year during the Kevin Baker era.
UTEP won the boards (42-35), thanks primarily to Ariona Gill’s career-high 14 rebounds. Gill added seven points to flirt with the double-double. But the night was stolen by Rochelle, who was electric in her 21 minutes off the pine. She connected on 6-10 from the floor, in addition to going 3-3 at the free throw line. Her presence was equally felt on the defensive end where she came up one steal shy of cracking UTEP’s top-10 single-game list.
Another factor was the Miners’ defense forcing 31 turnovers, the most by a UTEP opponent in four years. WSU was held to 35.6 percent (16-45) from the floor, including 23.1 percent (3-13) from 3-point range. UTEP connected on 34.4 percent from the floor but made up for it by getting to the free throw line 39 times (24 makes).
The Miners had 12 assists on their 21 field goals made, with freshman Katia Gallegos tallying a game-high five.
Weber State got out to an early 6-3 lead before the Miners scored six straight points to grab a 9-6 advantage with 1:38 to play in the opening quarter. The Wildcats wrapped a 12-4 run around the quarter break to vault out by five (18-13) and prompt a Baker timeout with 6:44 left in the half.
UTEP responded by closing out the quarter on a 16-4 push, including scoring seven straight at one point, to head into the locker room armed with a 29-22 lead. The Miners going 10-12 at the line in the second quarter helped compensate for them shooting 4-15 in the period.
The visitors battled back to get the margin down to one (33-32) at 6:29 of the third quarter, but UTEP didn’t flinch. It answered the run by scoring the game’s next eight points to go out by nine. The Miners continued to pour it on as the quarter wore on, extending their lead to 14 (52-38) heading to the final frame. UTEP didn’t let the visitors get closer than 11 from that point on.
UTEP returns to action at home against No. 20/19 Arizona at 1 p.m. MT Saturday. The first 600 fans in attendance will receive a special UTEP T-shirt. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, and may be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234.
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 click here to visit the official home of UTEP Athletics.
Video highlights courtesy of UTEP