UTEP women’s basketball split series with North Texas

UTEP+sophomore+guard+Isis+Lopes+brings+the+ball+up+the+court+for+the+Miners+in+a+62-52+win+over+North+Texas+Jan.+16.

Courtesy of UTEP

UTEP sophomore guard Isis Lopes brings the ball up the court for the Miners in a 62-52 win over North Texas Jan. 16.

Michael Cuviello, Sports Editor

On Saturday night, the UTEP Miners (7-6) finished a two game home series against the North Texas Mean Green with a 62-52 victory led by sophomore guard Katia Gallegos, pacing the team with 21 points and six assists. This win followed a 67-59 loss Friday night to the Mean Green. 

In the first game of the back to back matchup, the Miners gave the Mean Green it could handle up until about the five minute mark of the fourth quarter with 19 lead changes. At that point, North Texas took control of the game, scoring six straight points to open up a 7 point lead. 

Miner sophomore Avery Crouse brought the Miners back to within 4 points with a clutch 3-pointer with two minutes left on the clock but that would be the closest the Miners would get to the Mean Green losing by 8 points. 

Both teams shot a respectable 41% from the field but once again, the Achilles’ heel of the Miners was its 3-point shooting. The Miners shot an abysmal 15% from the arc, making only two of 13 shots. The Miners are shooting 28% from the 3-point line for the season, while opponents are shooting 36%. 

Gallegos led the Miners in scoring in game one with 13 points and seven assists to go along with two steals. No other Miner scored in double figures. For the Mean Green, the duo of Quincy Noble and N’Yah Boyd both scored 17 points apiece. 

“They hit some shots they don’t characteristically hit in those situations,”  UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker said after game one. They hit some shots, and when it mattered down the stretch, we turned it over three times in a row. That hurt our chances because it deflates our energy defensively when we do that.” 

In game two, the Miners took control from the very opening minutes of the game, scoring the game’s first 8 points. The Green Wave finally got on the scoreboard at the five minute mark. Defensively the Miners held North Texas to 7 points in the first quarter on 15% shooting from the field. 

Taking a 15-7 lead into the second quarter, the Miners could sustain its energy for most of the period. The only time North Texas was able to take the lead was with 20 seconds left in the quarter. Right at the buzzer, UTEP sophomore guard Isis Lopes made that lead short-lived with an open 3-pointer to end the half, giving the Miners a 26-24 lead. 

Early in the third quarter, the Mean Green briefly took the lead, but Gallegos’s 3-point play put the Miners up 31-28. Freshman forward Elina Arike hit two jumpers during this stretch of two minutes to help extend the Miner lead to 7 points. 

At the 37 second mark of the third quarter, the Miners were leading 43-38 but a series of sloppy plays that had both teams diving all over the floor led to a buzzer beating 3-pointer by North Texas’ N’yah Boyd to close the gap to 2 points going into the final quarter. 

Much like the previous game, one team was able to take control of the game about halfway through the final quarter. Unlike Friday’s game, that team Saturday was the Miners as the defense tightened, only allowing one field goal in the last four minutes.  Over the final two minutes, the Miners held the Green Wave scoreless, pulling out a hard earned 10-point victory. Key down the stretch was Gallegos with her all-around play and Lopes, who scored 5 straight points in 30 seconds to put North Texas away late in the game. 

Lopes finished the game with a career high 16 points on seven of 10 shooting from the field. Sophomore Avery Crouse led the team in rebounds with nine and had 8 points with three assists. As a team, the Miners shot 50% from the field while limiting the Mean Green to 35%. Once again, the Miners shot poorly overall from the 3-point line with only 20% but in the fourth quarter, UTEP shot 40 %. 

“We hit timely shots,” Baker said. “Yesterday, we didn’t hit timely shots we needed to. Today we hit timely shots.  

“We had a bunch of kids come through and make big shots in the fourth quarter when we needed them. It was nice to see us get some payoff. We’ve been losing some close games and we came away with a big one.” 

UTEP next heads on the road for another back-to-back series versus Louisiana Tech (9-3), with game one starting at 5 p.m. Jan. 22 in Ruskin, Louisiana.  

Michael Cuviello may be reached at [email protected]