UTEP women’s basketball hopes for a strong season


Isaiah Ramirez, Staff Reporter

The UTEP women’s basketball season opener is fast approaching as the team matches up against Alcorn State on Nov. 10, at the Don Haskins Center. With lots of newcomers and several key returners from last season’s 17-14 campaign, the outlook for the 2018 season seems promising. Here are some key points to look at heading into this season for the Miners.

Newcomers playing a major role.

With six newcomers on this squad, experience at the Division I level may be slim but the talent is there. After a 64-45 win over Division II Western New Mexico this past Saturday several newcomers including junior transfer Jade Rochelle, redshirt junior Neidy Ocuane and redshirt junior Ariona Gill showed signs of promise on the court.

Gill was the second leading scorer for the game with 14. Rochelle had six points and shot 60 percent from the field while logging 24 minutes. Ocuane didn’t get on the board but did provide pressure on the defensive end and 21 solid minutes without a turnover. Inserted into the rotation along with significant minutes, these newcomers will play a factor this season.

Depending on returning starters.

UTEP will lean on three of last season’s key pieces including junior forward Katarina Zec, junior forward Zuzanna Puc and senior forward Jordan Alexander.

Last season, as a sophomore, Puc averaged nine points and four rebounds per game. Puc was second in Conference USA in shooting percentage, at 53 percent from the field. In her freshman campaign, Puc was top 20 in the conference with 25 blocks on the season. Puc chipped in nine points in the exhibition, matchup against Western New Mexico.

Katarina Zec will be another focal point for the Miners as the Siberian forward looks to add to her impressive sophomore season. Zec averaged nine points and three rebounds a game and two assists a game. The three-point specialist led the team with 39 total threes and tied a school record of seven threes in one game against New Mexico State.

In the matchup against Western New Mexico, Jordan Alexander lead all scorers with 17 points shooting 100 percent from the free throw line and playing 28 minutes for the Miners. In 2017 Alexander was second on the team in free throws made with 66 and averaged eight points a game. The lone senior for UTEP registered 10 double-digit scoring games in 2017.

Closing out the season strong

In 2017, UTEP lost their last seven out of 11 conference games and finished the season 7-9 in C-USA. In order to capture a conference championship and a high seed in the conference tournament, closing out the season strong will be the main point of emphasis for the Miners.

“For a large part of the season we were in the top four in our conference, and then towards the end of the season we didn’t finish as well as we would’ve liked to,” said head coach Kevin Baker.

“So far this has been a very fun team to coach because they are so talented, and I don’t see any reason in the world why we can’t contend and be right where we want to be at the end of the year this year,” Baker added.

UTEP will be in action this weekend in an exhibition matchup against St. Mary’s University Sunday, Nov. 4 at the Don Haskins Center. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.

Isaiah Ramirez may be reached at [email protected]