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Miners end best season under Baker with 67-54 loss to Texas Tech in Round 1 of WNIT

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Playing in a postseason tournament for the fifth time in program history, UTEP women’s basketball fought until the end in a 67-54 loss at Texas Tech in opening round action of the WNIT on Thursday night.

The Miners (20-12, 12-8 C-USA) cut what at one point was a 17-point deficit in the first half down to five twice over the final 20 minutes.

“Our team knows that we played for 40 minutes, but we lost the game in the first six minutes,” UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker said. “We never could get over that hump. If we could start the game over again, we could maybe build a different outcome.”

UTEP started inching back into the game late in the first half after trailing 37-20 with 2:18 on the clock before the break, as a 6-0 run entering the locker room put the visitors within striking distance.

Texas Tech (19-14, 6-12 Big 12) turned the ball over three times during the stretch.

In a position to change the complexion of the game entirely, the Miners continued to play well over the first eight minutes of the third quarter, as another 6-0 UTEP run brought the Texas Tech lead to within two possessions at 45-40 with 2:18 left in the quarter.

Over the second and third quarters, Erin Wilson netted 13 of her team-high 20 points, posting an 8-of-11 effort from the floor and hauling down a season-high seven rebounds.

Another key in the comeback for the Miners was a 38-30 advantage on the boards, including a 12-6 edge on the offensive glass.

Playing with just eight players, the Miners needed contributions from everyone that took the floor.

“It’s very difficult to prepare for games with only eight players, but they figured out a way to do it,” Baker said. “That’s the behind-the-scenes stuff that you don’t ever see, but that’s the stuff that 10 years from now I’ll look back on and be the most proud of.”

As was the case throughout the night, the Lady Raiders punched right back with six straight points of their own to quickly go back up by double digits at 51-40.

“We’re not going to go away,” Baker said. “If you follow our team, no lead is big enough. We are always going to come back, and we are always going to make it a game. I honestly thought when we cut it to five that we were going to win because if you blow big leads at home, you usually lose that game. I just kept telling the kids to rely on our defense, make them make perimeter shots, no points in the paint and don’t foul them.”

It was Elina Arike on put-back duty for UTEP to snap the run the 6-0 Texas Tech run, grabbing a missed 3-pointer by Sabine Lipe and putting it up and in for two of the 15 second-chance points on the night for the Miners.

Arike finished with nine points and seven rebounds.

A solid shooting night sparked Texas Tech to the win, with the Lady Raiders hitting 22-of-50 (44 percent) shots from the field and sinking 8-of-23 (35 percent) from beyond the arc. UTEP was 18-of-52 (35 percent) overall.

“I love my team,” Baker said. “They fought hard. We just couldn’t score tonight. For whatever reason, we just did not shoot the ball very well. I can’t explain it. We usually make a lot of those shots that we missed today.”

UTEP concludes the season as one of just seven teams in program history to win at least 20 games, with all but one player on the roster holding eligibility looking ahead to the 2023-24 campaign.

Article Topic Follows: UTEP

Rachel Phillips

Rachel Phillips is the weekend sports anchor and reporter


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