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Women’s basketball returns home to face Louisiana Tech

Gaby Velasquez

Since starting Conference USA play, the UTEP women’s basketball team has yet to put together consecutive wins or losses, resulting in a seesaw record. They will aim to break the broken record against Louisiana Tech at the Don Haskins Center on Saturday afternoon.

The Miners (14-8, 5-4 C-USA) currently sit in a four-way tie for fourth place in C-USA with Southern Mississippi, Middle Tennessee and Charlotte. UTEP has just seven games remaining in the regular season before competing in the C-USA tournament in March in Frisco, Texas.

Only the top four seeded teams qualify for a bye in the tournament. If teams remain tied at any seed at the end of the regular season, that spot will be awarded to the team with the better overall record against each other combined.

UTEP is coming off a 66-53 win over UTSA this past Sunday, Feb. 4, in San Antonio after dropping in a fourth-quarter collapse (30-9) at home against C-USA co-leader UAB (84-64) on Thursday, Feb 2.

The Miners outscored the Roadrunners by 10 in the second half (39-29) after leading by just three points (27-24) at the break to clinch their first victory at the Convocation Center since Jan. 25, 2014 (67-56).

In the win, senior captain Tamara Seda captured her 11th double-double for the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while junior guard Najala Howell earned her fourth double-double on the season with a career-high tying 23 points, while grabbing a personal-best 13 boards. With the effort, Howell earned UTEP’s player of the game honor. Sophomore Katarina Zec was the third Miner in double figures, as she tallied 17 in the win.

Seda kept her rank at second in C-USA for rebounding, with 209 total boards and an average per game of 9.5.

“We got to enjoy these victories when we get them in Conference USA,” said head coach Kevin Baker following the win at UTSA. “I’m really proud of our kids. They’re resilient, they’re tough and people who follow us all year know this is what we do (comeback).”

The concern this whole season for the Miners has been turning the ball over. UTEP is fourth in the conference in turnovers per game (18.1), turning over the ball 21 times at UTSA, which resulted in 20 points for the Roadrunners.

Defending the 3-point ball has also been a concern for UTEP. Although not allowing a single 3-pointer to UTSA on Sunday (0-9), the Miners have still allowed more 3-pointers than any other team in Conference USA (174). Against UAB in their last home game, UTEP allowed the Blazers, who average 8.5 per game, to nail a school-record of 17, proving to be the difference maker in the loss.

Louisiana Tech (14-9, 5-5 C-USA) is coming off a 66-61 loss to UAB at home. The Lady Techsters were outrebounded 44-31 in the loss and have now dropped four of their last six games after starting 3-1 in conference play.

Uniquely, Louisiana Tech is under leadership by two head coaches who happen to be husband and wife. Both Scott and Brooke Stoehr joined the staff as co-head coaches in 2016 after the resignation of Tyler Summitt (son of legendary head coach Pat Summitt) due to an improper relationship with one of his players at the time.

Looking at the players, the Lady Techsters have been led by three who average double-figures in Alexus Malone (13), Kierra Anthony (13) and Taylor Stahly (11.5). Malone is Louisiana Tech’s go to force as she also averages 8.9 boards per game, and no other player averaging more than 3.5.

Knowing the Miners’ weakness in defending the 3-ball, Stahly will be a player to watch for as she leads LA Tech from behind the arc with 61 3-pointers made (43.9 percent).

If UTEP starts to allow Stahly to hit her shot, Howell will have to counter as she leads the Miners with 32 total 3-pointers for a 40 percent clip.

Before traveling to El Paso to face the Miners, the Lady Techsters will host the Rice Owls in Ruston, La., on Wednesday (Feb. 7).

Tip-off is slated for 1 p.m.

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About the Contributors
Jeremy Carranco
Jeremy Carranco, Sports Editor
Gaby Velasquez, Photo editor
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Women’s basketball returns home to face Louisiana Tech