UTEP women’s basketball future looking good

Isaiah Ramirez, Staff Reporter

The 2019-2020 season came to an abrupt halt for the UTEP women’s basketball team in Frisco, Texas with the Conference-USA tournament canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout the year the squad displayed a unique blend of senior leadership and freshman talent that is bereded for success next year under UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker 

 In the second round, the Miners were slated to take on Old Dominion in the second round of the Conference-USA tournament after defeating Florida Atlantic 95-67 in the quarterfinal round. Momentum was brewing on the Miners side and the matchup against the Monarchs was highly expected due to UTEP conquering ODU earlier in the season.  

The Miners opened conference play 3-0 with three dominate wins over FAU, Florida International University and Southern Mississippi in the matchup against FAU Jan. 4, UTEP set a record for its largest halftime lead in a conference game in program history.  

A freshman trio formed of guards Katia Gallegos, Avery Crouse, and Arina Khlopkova exceeded expectations and showed tons of promise for Miner Nation. The three-freshman scored in double digits in many games while displaying exquisite playmaking abilities in various outings. 

Gallegos set a freshman program record for assists in a season with 154 assists and was named to the 2020 Conference-USA All-freshman team. Gallegos’ 5.1 assists per game led Conference-USA and was third on the team in points per game with 9.6. 

Senior leadership complimented the freshman guard play with forward Ariona Gill and guard Katarina Zec pacing the squad in scoring with 12 points per game each.  

Zec eclipsed the 1,000-point career mark this season and paced the team in 3 pointers made this year as well as minutes per game with 31. Zec was named to the All-Conference USA second team, and the Conference-USA Women’s Basketball All-Academic Team.  

Gill leads the squad in rebounds per game with 8 and was sixth in Conference-USA in boards per game. In the Miners overtime victory against Charlotte Feb. 6, Gill earned a careerhigh 25 points and 14 rebounds.  

This season’s version of the Miners supplied constant defensive pressure and pesky and intense on-ball defense. The Miners forced an average of 19 turnovers per game on the year. 

The fast-paced and swift ball movement of the squad led to high-scoring outings as the Miners averaged 72.6 points per game which was third best in Conference-USA. 

Next season’s squad with the returning freshman core and solid returnees in Ariana Taylor, Michelle Pruitt and Sabine Lipe will bring plenty of potential for a postseason run. Close losses to conference leaders Rice and Old Dominion this season will be valuable learning experiences for the squad moving forward as it takes the next step in becoming an elite Conference-USA program.  

Isaiah Ramirez may be reached at Prospector @utep.edu.