UTEP wins in overtime over Aggies, Gallegos leads with 25 points

UTEP+coach+Kevin+Baker+motivates+the+women%27s+basketball+team+as+they+take+the+court+against+New+Mexico+State+Nov.+25.

Courtesy of UTEP

UTEP coach Kevin Baker motivates the women’s basketball team as they take the court against New Mexico State Nov. 25.

Michael Cuviello, Sports Editor

The UTEP Miners gutted out a hard-fought overtime victory over its I-10 rival, the New Mexico State (NMSU) Aggies, with a strong all-around performance from sophomore point guard Katia Gallegos. Scoring a careerhigh 25 points on nine for 23 shooting, Gallegos was a force all over the court in an 80-76 win over the Aggies. 

In a game played with no fans present at the Don Haskins Center, the Miners started slowly with no points scored in the first three minutes of the game. Both teams struggled with turnovers, especially early in the game when the Miners had four turnovers in the first two minutes of the game. After missing its first three shots, the Miners scored its first field goal of the game on a Gallegos steal. She took the ball the length of the floor for a layup at about the first quarter’s six-minute mark. 

After both teams traded leads, junior guard Sabine Lipe hit a clutch 3-pointer that gave the Miners a 14-10 lead with about two minutes left in the quarter. The Miners would continue to build its lead and end the quarter with a 17-14 lead.  Sophomore guard Avery Crouse picked up her third foul just before the end of the quarter, along with the two fouls on senior forward Dejanae Roebuck forced UTEP head coach Kevin Baker to play much deeper in his bench earlier than expected. 

New Mexico State came out in the second quarter and made 61% of its shots and clawed back to take the lead with about one minute left in the second quarter.  After a couple more free throws by the Miners, the score was tied at 33 at the game’s halfway point.  

For the half, Baker used 10 different players in his lineup as both Roebuck and Crouse were in foul trouble. The Miners were shooting 44% at the half but surrendered a 48% shooting to the Aggies with quite a few defensive lapses leaving quite a few open scores. Gallegos took 13 of the Miners 27 shots in the first half. 

Freshman forward Brenda Fontana made her presence known in the third quarter with an excellent defensive play on a steal she took the court’s length for the score. Fontana also made a tough play to stop a two on one break that prevented an Aggies score.  Soon after that play, Fontana scored her fifth straight point with an inside the paint layup to put the Miners up 46-43. 

The Aggies then proceeded to claw its way back into the game and at the one-minute mark, guard Kalei Atkinson made a short jumper to give NMSU its first lead of the second half. After trading scores, the Aggies took a 53-52 lead at the end of the third quarter. With the Miners shooting a low 28% from the field, the Aggies were able to take back the lead. 

“We were taking bad shots and we weren’t guarding,” Baker said. “When you’re taking bad shots and they are getting easy shots that’s usually a bad combination in any game.” 

Going on to lead for the majority of the fourth quarter, the Aggies too increased its lead to 66-58its largest lead with three minutes left in the game. After tightening up its defense, the Miners could hold the Aggies to one more field goal the rest of the quarter. Gallegos took over the game for the Miners at the one-minute mark, hitting two key jumpers and a clutch gametying layup with six seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime. 

As the Miners headed to overtime, the team had two starters, one foul away from being ejected from the game in Roebuck and Crouse. At the 3:36 minute mark of overtime Roebuck hit a corner 3-pointer to give the Miners a 71-70 lead. After another jumper by Roebuck, the Miners had increased its lead to five points with two minutes left in overtime. 

With 1:27 left in the game, the Aggies pulled within one on a steal and layup on a fast break from NMSU’s Aaliyah Prince.  Following a key layup from Crouse and a free throw from Roebuck, the Miners pulled back out to a four-point lead with 34 seconds left. The Aggies quickly broke past the Minder defense to score and close to two points.  Gallegos was fouled and hit both of her free throws to stretch the lead to four points. This score would be the margin of victory as the Miners closed out the Aggies 80-78 in overtime. 

Gallegos had a tremendous all-around game outside of the 25 points adding six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Turnovers were her only negative on the night as she had seven. Gallegos played 44 out of the 45 minutes of the game. Lipe was second in minutes with 36. 

While Gallegos carried the team on her back most of the night, Robuck coming through with a careerhigh 15 for the Miners, including a critical 3-pointer, was major factor in UTEP coming away with a win. Roebuck averaged 3 points a game last season while shooting 53% in only seven minutes per game last season. Going four for seven from the field Roebuck was able to come away with crucial scores when needed and hit clutch free throws down the stretch. 

“This was a big game for me,” Roebuck said. “This is my last year and I wanted to start off good and get a good win.” 

On the boards, four Miners were tied with six rebounds apiece as the team held a massive 44-33 overall rebound advantage. The Miners also had a massive free throw advantage taking 27 shots to only 10 for the Aggies. Aggressively taking the ball to the basket paid off frequently, drawing fouls to get to the line. 

For the Aggies Soufia Inoussa led a balanced attack that saw four Aggies scorre in double figures. Inoussa played 43 minutes and ended the game with 20 points on 8-14 shooting. 

The Miners struggled mightily from the 3-point line, only converting on three of 14 shots for the night. Overall, the team shot poorly from outside for the game but were very resilient with getting the ball inside to compensate. Defensively many miscues resulted in easy baskets. Destiny Thruman, who missed the game for the Miners, should provide some muchneeded outside shooting as she shot 37% from the arc last season in the junior college ranks. 

You never know when you don’t play whether your team is tough or not,” Baker said. “We practice every day, but until you play games you don’t know-how tough you are. We showed toughness. Down eight with three minutes left, it would have been easy to pack it up. But they showed resilience and toughness. We didn’t know we had it, now we do.” 

UTEP will play its next game 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 28, at the Don Haskins again, with no fans being allowed to attend. The game will be broadcast on Conference-USA TV to stream.  

Michael Cuviello may be reached at [email protected]