The Miners broke a three-game losing streak to the New Mexico State Aggies with a 63-57 victory Wednesday, Nov. 13 at the Pan American Center.
Senior forward Katarina Zec lead the Miners in scoring with 17 points while playing all 40 minutes of the game. Zec also contributed 7 rebounds along with 2 assists.
During the first quarter both teams played to a stalemate as the lead went back and forth. The Aggies closed out the first quarter leading by a single point.
By the halfway point of the second quarter the Aggies had opened a seven-point lead over the Miners. Over the next couple of minutes, the Aggies had four straight turnovers as well as three missed layups that culminated in two Miner free throws by Ariana Taylor that gave UTEP the lead in the second quarter.
Zec’s 14 first half points kept the Aggies from pulling away and gave the Miners a one-point lead at halftime. UTEP ended the first half leading 33-32.
Roaring out of the half, scoring the first seven points of the third quarter the Miners opened an eight-point lead. The Aggies were scoreless for the first three minutes of the quarter missing the team’s first four shots.
Junior forward Michelle Pruitt scored six points on layups in about a 90 second span of the third quarter. Pruitt ended the game with 14 points and 4 rebounds on 7-13 shooting. The Miners would end the quarter still leading by a single point 47-46.
The Aggies would briefly take the lead a couple of times in the fourth with its last lead at the three-minute mark. During this stretch the Miners’ defense completely shut down the Aggies for the rest of the game, not allowing a single point as the Aggies missed their last five shots.
Zec made a three pointer at the two-minute mark that gave the Miners a three-point lead. Freshman sensation Katia Gallegos would score the final three points of the game at the free throw line as UTEP pulled away for a 63-57 victory. Gallegos was a constant participant at the free throw line as she frequently earned trips to the charity stripe with her hard play. Filling the stat sheet, Gallegos was 3-9 from the field, 7-10 from free throw line with 5 rebounds and 2 steals.
The rebound battle was won by UTEP with 45-39 edge over the Aggies. Leading the way for the Miners was senior forward Ariana Gill with 8 rebounds even though she was plagued with foul trouble the whole evening.
With five tournament berths in the past five seasons the Aggies have been a consistently good team. New Mexico State has been to the NCAA tournament the last four seasons, including last year’s, and have also been to one National Invitational Tournament the previous season. The team only returned one starter from last season forward Gia Pack who had 9 rebounds in the game. Junior Aaliyah Prince has been their best player so far this season and continued to be with 22 points against the Miners.
This was a good early season road victory for a young Miner team that lost their first four road games last season. The Miners only won three total games on the road in last year’s shorthanded season.
“It just feels good to have a competitive team that fights for every possession,’ Head Coach Kevin Baker said. This was a “It just feels really good to have a competitive team that fights for every possession,” Baker said. “This was a very difficult game on the road against a really good team. We had a lot of young kids out there battling their hearts out and got some strong senior leadership down the stretch too. This is a big win for our program because we’re so young and are learning.”
New Mexico State falls to 1-2 on the season and will get another opportunity against the Miners on Nov. 23.
The Miners play the next seven games at home. Next up for the Miners is Alcorn State University 1 p.m. Saturday Nov. 16.