UTEP WBB Ready for Crucial Florida Road Swing at FAU and FIU
The UTEP Women's basketball team arrived in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday evening in preparation of its crucial late-season road swing which features games at Florida Atlantic on Thursday at 5 pm MST and at FIU in Miami on Saturday at 12 pm MST. Despite losing eight in a row and only utilizing seven players, the team still has an opportunity to make the C-USA Championships in Frisco next month with a good showing on this trip. This will be the team's second trip to the eastern time zone in the past three weeks before returning home for four of its last five games this season.
Injuries have plagued this team all season long as neither Jordan Jenkins nor Alexa Hoy made the trip, and Sabine Lipe is out for the season. On a positive note, redshirt-junior and second-leading scorer Ariona Gill is back after missing more than a month from a stress fracture and will play in her third consecutive game on Thursday at FAU. The reason why these games are so important is because UTEP is tied for 11th in the C-USA standings with FAU and UTSA, while FIU is one game back in 14th place. This being relevant because the top 12 teams out of 14 make it to the C-USA Championships. It has not been an easy road for UTEP as its first nine conference opponents have a combined record of 125-71, 54-29 in league play.
Both games on this trip are extremely winnable to say the least. The Miners are coming off back-to-back home losses to Marshall and WKU by a total of six points. Most recently UTEP proved that it can play with the better teams in league play, as Western Kentucky has won the C-USA Conference Tournament championship the past two seasons. Zuzanna Puc has consecutive double-doubles while Katarina Zec had a season-high 19 points versus WKU and has scored double-digit points in three of her last four games. Neidy Ocuane also scored a career-best 14 points against Marshall.
Flordia Atlantic has struggled mightily this season as they have lost 10 of their last 11 games and are 3-10 at home. The Miners lead the series 4-3 and have won four of the past five match-ups. The Owls are led by Juliette Gauthier, a freshman from Quebec, Canada, who's averaging 10.1 ppg, Myka Johnson Matthews, averaging 9.4 ppg and Amber Gatson, who is contributing with 8ppg. The team has seven freshman on their roster and loves to shoot the long-range shot as they rank 71st in the nation in 3's attempted with 474.
The Miners game at FIU on Saturday will be a challenge as each of the last two games they have played in Miami have been decided by 1-point. UTEP won a 77-76 thriller last season and lost on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in triple overtime in 2016. The Panthers are 3-19, 3-11 at home, and have lost eleven straight games. They are led by Chelsea Guimaraes who's averaging 9.8 ppg, Paula Orenes, 9.1 ppg, and Ce'Nara Skanes, 8.3ppg. You can listen to both contests with the Iceman on 600 ESPN El Paso.