Women’s basketball face I-10 rival in nailbiter

Jazion+Jackson+drives+up+towards+the+basket+to+create+an+opportunity+to+score.

Gianluca Cuevas

Jazion Jackson drives up towards the basket to create an opportunity to score.

Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela, Sports Editor

The UTEP women’s basketball team (6-1) took its turn against New Mexico State University (NMSU) (2-4) during the Battle of I-10, Nov. 30 at the Don Haskins Center. The NMSU Aggies are entering this matchup 2-3 after losing to Yale (4-4) 73-65 Friday, Nov. 25. The Aggies are currently 0-2 on the road. 

The UTEP Miners, are coming of a loss against Sacramento State University during the Holiday Beach Classic in San Luis Obispo, California. This is the team only loss of the season as it has gone undefeated at home in the Don Haskins. 

The Miners started off soft, allowing eight unanswered points in the first two minutes of the quarter. After a timeout from Head Coach Kevin Baker, UTEP went 16-5 in the last eight minutes if the first. At the end of one, the Miners were up 16-13 after scoring six points in the paint, five from turnovers and five off the bench. 

Both teams started off cold out of the first, but NMSU managed to come back and give the Miners a run for its money bringing the came within one score on several occasions. Both teams ended the half fairly even after scoring 10 points from the paint with UTEP edging out the Aggies in fast break points with five. 

The Miners’ top scorers out of the first half were junior guards N’Yah Boyd and Avery Crouse with eight points. Boyd nailed both of her three-point attempts while Crouse went two for four. Making their presence felt was junior forward Thaniya Marks after going two for two under the basket. 

Junior guard Avery Crouse drives down the court with the Aggie defender pressing. (Gianluca Cuevas)

The second half started out well for the Miners after pushing its lead to 10 points early on. The defense also came off aggressive forcing six turnovers to start the third quarter, scoring a whopping nine points off those turnovers. Late into the third, NMSU managed to close the UTEP lead. The closest the Aggies have come to taking the lead is at the end of the third. 

Late into the fourth quarter, the Aggies took the lead with a little over four minutes of play going up 53-52. But the lead did not stand for long after senior guard Sabine Lipe nailed a field goal to place the lead back in the Miners hand. A critical three pointer from Crouse helped put the Miners ahead 57-53 with 3:30 left in the fourth. 

With only 10 seconds left of play, the Miners defense forced NMSU into a five-second violation sealing the game for UTEP. The final score was 65-61, UTEP. 

The Miners finished 21 of 53 in field goals, 7 of 22 in three-point attempts and 16-20 from the free-point line. UTEP converted 21 points from turnovers, 18 from the paint and 15 of the bench. Crouse led the team in points with 17 followed closely by Boyd with 15. 

After the game UTEP President Dr, Heather Wilson spoke on the importance of a rivalry game such at the I-10 Rivalry with NMSU. 

“This is of course a great rivalry game,” Wilson said. “The girls played their hearts out tonight. It is great to see students and alumni out here tonight.” 

Baker echoed that sentiment in the post-game press conference, stating that, since several players are not native to El Paso, the team must buy into the rivalry. 

“Rivalry games are supposed to go down like that,” Baker said. “Our kids know it is a rivalry game, but our kids are not from El Paso. We have to sell that to our kids and this is important to the town.” 

Top scorers Boyd and Crouse emphasized how the team stepped up to win the game during the post-game conference. 

“I would say it is a team win,” Boyd said. “We fought to the end, and we stayed together. We always stayed together and that (game) was just a little bit of adversity we got over.” 

“I think it was a good team dub,” Crouse said “We do a good job of being there for each other. That is what is one of the most important things in this win tonight.” 

After not losing at home in the span of seven games, Boyd and Crouse are ecstatic about the season and the support from UTEP fans. 

“We got the Miners fans to support us, that is a big factor,” Crouse said. “Protecting the home court and playing big, it feels good.” 

The Miners now head to the Centennial State for a match against the Air Force Falcons (3-4) at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4 at the Clune Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The game will be available over the Mountain West Network. 

Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela is the sports editor and may be reached at [email protected]