The 88th Battle of 1-10 between the UTEP women's basketball team and NM State was a nail-bitting instant classic that came down to the wire, resulting in the Miners' fist victory at the Pan American Center since the 2015-16 season.   UTEP knew it would be an up-hill battle coming into such a hostile environment, considering that the program was 31-12 all time in Las Cruces.

It was a seesaw battle the first several minutes, with NM State holding a 12-11 lead at the 4:16 mark of the opening quarter. UTEP scored five straight to go up, 16-12, including consecutive baskets from Taylor.  The Aggies went on an 11-0 run around the quarter break to go out by seven 23-16 with 8:11 remaining in the opening half.

It remained a seven-point differential, 27-20 at the 6:20 mark before the Miners reeled off eight consecutive points to regain the advantage at 28-27 with 3:36 left in the half. It was back-and-forth over the final few minutes, allowing UTEP to head into the locker room up by one, with a 33-32 edge.

The Miners ripped off seven straight points to start the third quarter, resulting in an eight-point cushion 40-32 at the 7:24 mark. NM State chipped away at the margin, and it got within one 47-46 through three quarters of play.  It was a tightly-contested affair down the stretch, with neither team leading by more than three points before UTEP’s game-closing 6-0 run.

The Miners were absolutely clutch down the stretch when everything was on the line as Katarina Zec hit a go-ahead three pointer with two minutes left.  Junior transfer Michelle Pruitt had a tremendous second half performance by going 6-7 from the field, and freshman Katia Gallegos sank two key free throws to seal the victory with 13.1 seconds remaining.   The epic game featured 12 ties and 19 lead changes.

UTEP was led by Katarina Zec, who tallied 17 points, while Michelle Pruitt added 14 points and freshman Katia Gallegos  contributed with 13 points.  Ariona Gill also scored 7 points, and Ariana Taylor reached near double-digits with 9 points.  The win was all the bit more significant for this young team considering that they shut down Aggies' leading scorer and WAC preseason player of the year Gia Pack, holding her to just 6 points on 2-11 shooting.

Combine this with the fact that NM State has qualified for the NCAA Tournament four of the past five seasons, and it was without question a rather significant win for Kevin Baker's program.  The Miners will next host Alcorn State on Saturday at 1 p.m.  You can tune in on our ESPN2 streaming network with the Iceman Brandon Cohn and Traci Miller.

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