Women’s basketball pivots during WNMU win


Joel Molina

Guard Jazion Jackson takes a jump-shot.

Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela, Sports Editor

The 2022-2023 basketball season is finally underway after the UTEP women’s basketball team faced Western New Mexico University (WNMU) in an exhibition game Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Don Haskins Center. The UTEP Miners are coming off an underwhelming 2021-2022 where it went 14-15 and 6-12 in conference play. 

First half 

Head Coach Kevin Baker’s starting lineup consisted of junior guard Jazion Jackson, junior guard Avery Crouse, sophomore forward Elina Arike, senior guard Eliana Cabral and freshman guard Soleil Montrose. The Miners were down at the end of the first quarter 16-12. The WNMU Mustangs dominated field goal percentage with 55.6 to UTEP’s 26.7. Leading the charge for the Mustangs was freshman forward Larissa Laborin with seven of WNMU’s points. The leader for the Miners at the end of the first quarter was Crouse with five points. 

The second quarter fared much better for the Miners when, at 7:09, the Miners took the lead thanks to a successful layup from Cabral to push the Miners to 21-20. After some back and forth plays from the Mustangs and Miners, sophomore guard Grace Alvarez nailed three consecutive three-pointers pushing her to be the team’s top scorer before the end of the half with nine points. 

The Miners played much better in the second quarter after reaching a field goal percentage of 53.3. UTEP also scored 18 points in the paint, 13 points off turnovers and nine second chance points. The Miners led at the end of the first half, 37-36. 

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  • Guard Jazion Jackson dribbles the ball while being surrounded by two defenders.

  • Guard Avery Crouse attempts a driving layup during the game against Western New Mexico Nov. 5.

  • Guard Eliana Cabral fights for the rebound during the game against Western New Mexico Nov. 5.

  • Forward Elina Arike attempts to shoot the ball while being closely defended.

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Second half 

The Miners trailed for most of the third quarter after WNMU junior guard Sydney Wright completed a layup pushing the score to 38-37. It was not until Arike completed a layup at 3:22 that the Miners pushed forward. After that play, the Miners scored five additional points to close out the quarter. UTEP scored on only 35.7 percent of field goal attempts but scored five points in second chance opportunities in the third quarter placing the Miners at 54-48. 

The Miners finally pulled away early in the fourth quarter after scoring eight points only two minutes into the quarter. The score at 8:08 was 62-51, a nine-point lead against WNMU. The Mustangs did not have an answer for the UTEP offense as it finally found its footing. With 2:03 left in the game, the Miners had scored 70 points and earned an eleven-point lead. The Mustangs would not score again in this game leaving the final score at 72-59, Miners. 

Crouse led the Miners in scoring with 17 points after going seven of 11 field goals in 34 minutes of play. Overall, UTEP struggled in field goal attempts with a percentage of 38.1. However, 27 points came off turnovers, 18 points off second chances, 40 points in the paint and 20 off the bench. The Miners defense only allowed 18 of 48 in field goal attempts and two of 10 in three-point attempts. 

After the game, coach Baker explained his gratitude for WNMU’s adversity and competitiveness. 

“It’s just a scrimmage for us,” Baker said. “I’m so glad that Western New Mexico played well enough to make us battle. What we needed is exactly what we got. They scrapped and they fought, you got to tip your hat to them for that.” 

Baker also expressed how not only players are practicing, but officials as well. 

“I think it was a scrimmage for all of us,” Baker said. “I think the officials needed that game as much as we did because they didn’t officiate well in the first half. I didn’t see 30 fouls.” 

Avery Crouse had a message to fans for the upcoming season to close out the postgame press conference. 

“I’ll just say, come out and support, fans,” Crouse said. “That’s what gives us our energy. We would love to see (fans) come out.” 

The Miners now wait for the University of New Orleans to come into town for the season opener at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7 at the Don Haskins Center. 

All stats provided by UTEP Athletics 

Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela is the sports editor and may be reached at [email protected]: @rivasemmanuel2 on Instagram