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UTEP defeats CSU Bakersfield in come from behind win

Priscilla Gomez
Women’s basketball Head Coach Kevin Baker gives instructions during time out.

The UTEP women’s basketball team defeated the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners, 53-47, in a come from behind win Wednesday night at the Don Haskins Center.

“I’m just so proud of the toughness of our team,” said head coach Kevin Baker. “Because you know, sometimes you don’t really know what you have in terms of toughness and grit early on in the season and we were down five, and the momentum was not going our way. But our team collectively stood up and just really played a pretty good defensive basketball game and won the game on the boards and that really is what won the game for us.”

UTEP improved to 2-0 on the season and gave CSU Bakersfield (2-1) their first loss of the season.

UTEP got out to an early lead in the first quarter, 13-9. Both teams would go on to score 12 points in the second quarter  

At the end of the first half, both teams had turned the ball over for a combined 19 times. UTEP committed 10 of their 19 turnovers, while CSU Bakersfield committed nine first-half turnovers. The Roadrunners committed four turnovers to close out the half.

Both teams struggled to score from the field–UTEP shot 9-of-22 for 40 percent but failed to score a bucket in their last four attempts to close out the half. CSU Bakersfield only nailed eight shots in 27 attempts shooting 29 percent from the field. UTEP led 25-21 to close out the first half.

“I think its a team thing because we defended to our plan,” Zec said. “We practice that the whole week. We had a really good practice and really good shootaround and we really wanted to defend today. I think that was a major thing, that won us the game especially because our shots weren’t falling.”

UTEP entered the fourth quarter trailing by four after getting outscored in the third quarter by eight points, 17-9. During the third period, UTEP continued to struggle from the field, shooting 27 percent from the field and 37 percent from the free throw line. The Roadrunners were able to get out to a lead when they started to make their three-point attempts. CSU Bakersfield went 3-for-7 from behind the arc, shooting 42 percent.

Junior guard Katarina Zec struggled with foul trouble throughout the game. Zec picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter, the junior would return in the fourth quarter and be crucial factor down the stretch for the Miners. Zec provided big rebounds and second-chance points opportunities in the fourth quarter. UTEP had nine-second chance points compared to three by CSU Bakersfield.  

Junior forward Zuzanna Puc led all Miners with a double-double scoring 12 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Puc had six points and five rebounds in the fourth quarter alone.

“It was like a roller coaster, Puc said. “But we defended all the time. We were locked in. So, I think that was the main contribution to our win.”

UTEP struggled to make any of their three-point attempts, the one and only three they scored came when they needed it the most in the fourth quarter when junior guard Neidy Ocuane nailed a three-pointer to give UTEP a 45-41 lead. Prior to that, UTEP shot 0-for-18 from behind the arc. The Roadrunners would make a three of their own to bring the game within one with three minutes left on the clock. UTEP was able to extend its lead by nailing their free throw attempts to bring their lead to 47. Senior forward Malayasia McHenry tied the game at 47 for the Roadrunners when she was able to make a three-pointer of her own with 2:18 left on the clock.  Zec would regain the lead for the Miners by nailing down her free throw attempts towards the end of the game. After committing 16 turnovers through three quarters the Miners only had three in the fourth.

“That just means that we were taking care of the ball better you know, and I thought both teams are pretty tired at the end so they really couldn’t get up and pressure us like they want to just make us turn it over but at the same time we were able to execute while we were a little winded so proud of our team for being able to do that down the stretch and of course Neidy hit a big shot to get us over the hump,” Baker said.

With three seconds left on the clock, the Roadrunners had an opportunity to tie the game and send it to overtime. But when they inbounded the ball, they committed their 14th turnover for the game when senior guard JJ Taylor stepped out of bounds after she caught the ball. CSU Bakersfield head coach Greg McCall then got ejected from the game, receiving two technical fouls after arguing with the officials over the turnover. The play was reviewed and the call on the court stood.

UTEP shot 83 percent from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, only missing two of their 12 attempts.  UTEP would outrebound the Roadrunners 46-34. Zec was second in rebounds with eight, she also finished with nine points. Senior forward Jordan Alexander finished third in scoring for the Miners scoring eight points.

UTEP returns to the Don Haskins Center, Saturday, Nov. 17, when they play the New Mexico State Aggies, tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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Daniel Mendez, Staff reporter
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UTEP defeats CSU Bakersfield in come from behind win