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The UTEP women’s basketball team losing streak continues

Gaby Velasquez

The UTEP women’s basketball team losing streak is extended to eight games after losing a close one to the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers, 64-61, Saturday afternoon at the Don Haskins Center.

UTEP is now 4-18 and 1-7 in conference action, WKU improved to 14-9 and 8-1 in Conference USA.

“They’ve had every excuse to lay down and not play well, but they seem to be doing the opposite,” said Head Coach Kevin Baker. “They seem to be doing the exact opposite, stepping up playing and really playing well at a time when most people would say they couldn’t do it. What an impressive group of young ladies to be around I mean, I was watching this play I think we’re up nine or 10 and I just was thinking we’ve been waiting for this all year to emerge at some point and play better basketball.

“I want to win for these guys so they’ll quit feeling lousy in a locker room after games, but I’m super proud of them. I wouldn’t want to coach anybody else. I mean, there’s not a team in the conference I don’t want to coach for other than these seven or eight or six or seven (players) and we’re going to battle with every day.”

The injury rotten Miners suited up seven players, junior guard Katarina Zec played all 40 minutes for the Miners.

In the first quarter, UTEP saw themselves down by 10. UTEP committed eight turnovers in the first five minutes of the game, WKU would score 10 points off turnovers. It wasn’t till UTEP responded by going on an 8-0 run that saw WKU enter a scoring drought that lasted under four minutes. During that time frame, WKU shot 0-for-4 from the field. UTEP and WKU ended the first quarter in a tie at 12 points.

UTEP opened up the second quarter on a 13-3 run that allowed the Miners to break down the Lady Toppers press defense. UTEP dished out seven of their nine first-half assists. Junior forward Zuzanna Puc had two back-to-back assists to Zec who shot a perfect 7-7 from the field for 14 points.

The Zec and Puc connection combined for 26 of the Miners 36 first-half points.

During halftime, the 1974-75 UTEP women’s basketball team was honored. A video of the current team listing off the team’s achievements played before the team was introduced to the fans. To read more about the history of UTEP women’s basketball read here

The third quarter saw both teams score a total of 11 points. WKU missed all of their seven attempts from behind the arc while UTEP committed five turnovers. The late game action happened all in the last minutes of the fourth quarter.

A costly UTEP turnover led to WKU having a one-point lead, that turnover capped off a 7-0 run for the Lady Toppers in the fourth quarter. Zec would give the Miners a one-point lead with under five minutes after nailing down a pair of free throws.

Tied at 51, Zec drove to the paint and found senior forward Jordan Alexander for the layup. The senior would give UTEP a three-point lead after converting the and-1 attempt. With 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Zec had a costly turnover that led to WKU shooting two free throw attempts. Sophomore guard Dee Givens would make 1-of-2 from the line. UTEP had the ball with a one-point lead but turned the ball over again. Puc fouled Givens sending Givens to the line where she gave WKU a one-point lead. Puc then recorded her fifth foul of the afternoon and fouled out of the game. Junior forward Ariona Gill would answer back by driving to the lane and getting the layup. Gill gave UTEP a one-point lead with 15.9 seconds left. WKU would answer back when sophomore forward Elgedawy Raneem nailed the jump shot to give WKU the one point lead. Freshman forward Ariana Taylor would then commit the 23rd Miners turnover. WKU would extend their lead to three with five seconds left on the clock.

UTEP had a chance to tie the game up when junior guard Jade Rochelle’s 3-point attempt was blocked with one second left in regulation.

“We kind of made some big mistakes we’re kind of an unlucky team right now,” Baker said. “We had the game won a couple of times, we rebounded the ball twice and turn it over twice. So, I don’t think Western Kentucky really anything to do with that. I think it was just poor decisions and choices on our part.”

Zec led all Miners with a game-high 19 points shooting 8-11 from the field. The junior added three rebounds and three assists. Puc recorded her sixth double-double finishing with 17 points and 13 rebounds while dishing out four assists.

“We had so many close games and issues, we’re sick and tired of it but I guess we came back we played hard and it’s just it’s not our day,” Zec said. “We’re not lucky just like coach said.”

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Daniel Mendez, Staff reporter
Gaby Velasquez, Photo editor
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The UTEP women’s basketball team losing streak continues