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UTEP women seek key road wins at Marshall and ODU

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UTEP women seek key road wins at Marshall and ODU

The UTEP women’s basketball team leads Conference USA in rebounding margin with a 7.3 advantage on the boards per game.

The UTEP women’s basketball team leads Conference USA in rebounding margin with a 7.3 advantage on the boards per game.

Gaby Velasquez

The UTEP women’s basketball team leads Conference USA in rebounding margin with a 7.3 advantage on the boards per game.

Gaby Velasquez

Gaby Velasquez

The UTEP women’s basketball team leads Conference USA in rebounding margin with a 7.3 advantage on the boards per game.

Daniel Mendez, Staff Reporter

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With just six regular season games remaining, the UTEP women’s basketball team is battling for a bye in the Conference USA tournament.

While the Miners are in seventh place, just two games separate five teams from securing the coveted fourth-place spot needed for the bye.

UTEP (14-9, 5-5 C-USA) will head back on the road this week to face two teams that are struggling in Conference USA, last place Marshall on Feb. 15 and Old Dominion on Feb. 17.

The Miners return to the hardwood after a loss in their last game against LA Tech (62-65) at home this past Saturday, where UTEP’s second-leading scorer Najala Howell was held scoreless.

The first matchup for the Miners on their two-game road trip is a visit to Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. The Thundering Herd (7-17, 1-10 C-USA) are currently on a four-game losing streak, but first-year head coach Tony Kemper has his team in the top five in scoring in C-USA (66.9 points per game).

The Herd are led by Conference USA’s second-leading scorer Shayna Gore. The 5-foot-8 forward has been a on a tear this season, averaging 19.7 points per game and is third in 3-point shooting percentage, with an average of 40.8 percent of 3’s made  per game. Gore is coming off a successful month so far in her team’s past 10 games. Gore has scored 20-plus points in six games, with her highest mark coming against Charlotte on Feb. 2, when she tallied 32.

Graduate student Talequia Hamilton is also a top-10 scoring threat in conference for Marshall. She averages 14.6 points per game  and will also be a problem for the Miners defensively. The 6-footer is the third-best defender in conference in terms of blocked shots, with an average of 1.6 per game.

In the second matchup for  UTEP on their two-game swing will be a contest against the Old Dominion Monarchs in Norfolk, Virginia. ODU (6-19, 4-7 C-USA) will look to see if they can build on their momentum as they secured their biggest win of the season thus far in their last game against Southern Miss (74-55) on Feb. 10.

ODU’s first-year head coach is Nikki McCray-Penson. Penson served as an assistant at South Carolina, helping the program get to the their first-ever national championship.

The Monarchs are led by their dynamic freshman guard Victoria Morris, who is the fifth-best in 3-point field goal percentage in C-USA, averaging 33 percent per game. Morris averages 11.9 points per game as she is the team’s leading scorer.

The Miners main strength is attacking the glass. UTEP is the second-best rebounding team in conference, averaging 39.7 rebounds per game and is first in rebounding margin, securing 7.3 more rebounds than their opponents per game.

Senior captain Tamera Seda has easily secured her spot as UTEP’s main force. She is currently the ninth-best scorer in C-USA, averaging 14.5 points per game and is second in rebounding (9.9), while also leading the conference in field goal percentage (52.7 percent).

Despite the loss to Louisiana Tech and the surprise of Howell’s scoreless effort, Baker is optimistic about the rest of the season for his team.

“I’m really excited about future of our team this season,” Baker said postgame after the loss to LA Tech.

Baker was proud of the play from Seda, who notched 23 points in the loss on Saturday and will look to keep motivating her the rest of the season.

“I told Tamara (Seda) in the locker room after the game, ‘if you play like that the rest of the season, we may not lose another one,’” he said. 

Tip-off against Marshall is set for 4 p.m. MT in Huntington,, and noon will be the scheduled tip-off against ODU.

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UTEP women seek key road wins at Marshall and ODU