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UTEP women’s basketball struggles in absence of Nash

Nina Titovets
Jakeria Ford dives after the ball, with only seconds left in the fourth quarter

Senior guard Sparkle Taylor did her best to perform double-duty during the UTEP women’s basketball season opener on Friday night in the absence of the only other senior on the Miners’ young squad, fellow guard Jenzel Nash; however, Taylor’s career high 28 points were not enough to lead the young and inexperienced Miners to victory on this particular night.

The Miners lost their season opener 65-51 to the visiting Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. This was head coach Keitha Adams’s fourth loss in 16 home openers with UTEP.

To say that the Miners started an inexperienced lineup would be an understatement. Guard Lulu McKinney was at the point, with 14 starts under her belt. Taylor has started 22 games as a Miner. Forward Tamara Seda started in the post and has started two games in the orange and blue. Transfer junior guard Chanel Khammarath and transfer forward Axelle Bernard have never started a game as Miners.

Nash is suspended indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules and the team felt her absence in leadership – and most definitely in scoring.

“(Nash) is going to give you some offense and she’s going to make some things happen on both ends,” said Adams following the opening game of her 16th year at the helm. “She’s an experienced player, there’s no question about that.”

The “experienced” lineup that UTEP began the game with jumped out to the lead, led by Bernard who led the first quarter with five points. By the end of the quarter, Adams had moved in an all freshman lineup of guard Faith Cook, guard Rachel Tapps, guard Katarina Zec, forward Zuzanna Puc and forward Jakeira Ford. None of the freshmen ended the game with more than four points – Puc (4), Ford (3), Zec (2). Worst of all, NAU tied the game at 14 to end the first quarter.

“Our offense wasn’t very good in the first half because we took a lot of bad shots. We’re going to have to have some patience and we’re going to have to have some trust in one another,” said Adams. “We’ve got so many new player, it’s going to take time for us to evolve with that.”

It was 31-21 in favor of NAU at halftime but, as always with a Keitha Adams coached team, all hope was not lost. Taylor came out absolutely ablaze in the second half and scored 14 points in a three minute span beginning with 6:11 left to go in the third quarter and ending with UTEP only down 40-37 with 3:02 to go in the quarter.

Taylor was rested at the end of the quarter and came back in to begin the fourth quarter, with UTEP still down seven. She never regained her shot with NAU beginning to focus on her more and the rest of the MIiners were not able to close the deficit.

“I knew that the defense was going to look to double me or come to me more so, I was looking to get my teammates more involved but, we’ve just got to play better than that,” said a dejected Taylor following the game.

Adams knew heading into this season that there would be a learning curve and it has already begun but, the coach remains ever positive and looking to teach her young team who gets back on the practice court tomorrow.

“If we were to play that way and win, I think that’s a bad lesson. So really, Northern (Arizona) deserved it. I credit them. We’re going to have to get in the gym and we’re going to have to work hard and continue to just work to get better,” said Adams before heading out to no doubt work on a plan for tomorrow.



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UTEP women’s basketball struggles in absence of Nash