UTEP Players Talk About Team, Season Opener Saturday

El Paso, TX - The Kevin Baker era will officially tip off when the UTEP women’s basketball team plays host to CSU Bakersfield in the 2017-18 season opener for both squads at 1 p.m. MST on Saturday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids. The contest will be broadcast locally  on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio and there will also be a live stream on CUSAtv.com (subscription based).



The tilt is the start of a six-game homestand to start the season, with Texas A&M Corpus Christi (7 p.m., Nov. 18), Arkansas (2:30 p.m. Nov. 24), Texas Southern (2:30 p.m. Nov. 25), New Mexico (5:30 p.m. Nov. 30) and Houston Baptist (1 p.m. Dec. 2) also on the docket. It ties as the second longest homestand to start a season in program history. 



UTEP is 23-20 all time in season openers, including 20-7 when doing so in El Paso. Overall in home openers, the Miners stand 27-14 (missing outcomes in some years).



The return of the UTEP Thanksgiving Classic and a 16-game Conference USA slate, match-ups against both New Mexico and NM State and non-conference contests against power league members Arkansas, East Carolina and Georgetown highlight the 2017-18 UTEP women’s basketball schedule. There are also games against three teams that played in the 2017 NCAA Tournament (NM State, Texas Southern and WKU) and four from the 2017 Postseason WNIT (Georgetown, LA Tech, Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss)



For the third straight season, NCAA women’s basketball games will be played in four 10-minute quarters. Teams reach the bonus and shoot two free throws on the fifth team foul in each quarter. In the four-quarter format, team fouls reset to zero at the start of each quarter. Teams have four timeouts (three 30s, one 60), three which carry over to the second half. They will be able to advance the ball to the frontcourt after a timeout with less than 59.9 seconds in 4Q. There are seven media timeouts (four under five minutes in quarter/first called), two intermission media timeouts (after first and third quarters) and the first team-called timeout during the second half. Bands or amplified music may play during any dead ball.



Fans are encouraged to connect with the Miners on Facebook (UTEP Women’s Basketball), Instagram (@utepwbb) and Twitter (@UTEPWBB). They are also encouraged to use #WeAreMiners in posts.



This is the second meeting all time between UTEP and CSU Bakersfield. The Miners cruised to a 74-61 conquest of the Roadrunners at the Don Haskins Center on Dec. 28, 2016, last year.



CSU Bakersfield returned four starters and nine letter winners from last year’s team that finished 15-14, including 10-4 in Western Athletic Conference play. This year the Roadrunners were pegged to finish second in the WAC according to the preseason coaches’ poll and third in the league according to the preseason media poll. CSUB also placed two on the 2017-18 WAC Preseason Basketball Media All-WAC teams, with Jazmyne Bartee landing on the first team and Aja Williams securing a spot on the second team. The duo was voted to the second team according to the coaches. It has a relatively young program, which was founded in 2000. The first season of play at the Division I level came in 2007. Notable CSUB alumni include professional slam poet Big Poppa E and UFC Hall of Fame member Tito Ortiz.


LAST MEETING WITH CSUB: (at UTEP 74, CSUB 61, Dec. 28, 2016)

Tamara Seda scored 15 points and ripped down a career-high 17 rebounds, while Sparkle Taylor paced the squad with 16 points as the Miners slowed down the Roadrunners 74-61 in the Don Haskins Center to close out non-conference play in style on Dec. 28.  The effort also halted a four-game losing skid. CSUB took an early 5-2 lead but the Miners responded with a 15-0 run in the first quarter and never looked back. Taylor connected on a jumper at the 8:14 mark to start the run, while Najala Howell ended it with a jumper at the 3:17 mark. Howell poured in a career-high 15 points and recorded seven rebounds. Faith Cook led the Miners with seven dimes and scored a career-best nine points, while Ax Bernard (career-high tying 11 points) also got after it on the offensive end. Seda added a career-best four blocks. UTEP led by 13 (24-11) after the first quarter but the visitors cut the deficit down to two (54-52, 7:37 4Q). The Miners stepped up their game and tallied the next nine points to go up 63-52 with 5:58 left in the contest to seal the victory. The Miners outrebounded the Roadrunners 47-37, while the Orange and Blue hit 81 percent of their free throws (season-high made 22-of-27). UTEP forced five steals and scored 14 points off turnovers.



For the first time since the 2007-08 season, the Miners played a pair of exhibition games to prepare for the regular season. UTEP split the contests, drilling NCAA Division III member Sul Ross State, 99-40, on Oct. 29, while falling to NCAA Division II member St. Mary’s (Texas), 68-62, on Nov. 4. Katarina Zec (17.5 points per game) was the top point producer for the Miners but four others (Tamara Seda-16.5 ppg, Najala Howell-15.0 ppg, Jordan Alexander-11.0 ppg and Jakeira Ford-11.0 ppg) also averaged double figures in scoring. As a team UTEP shot 45.5 percent (56-123) from the floor while holding its foes to 30.9 percent (38-123). The Miners excelled at the free-throw line (35-42, 83.3 percent) and also dominated the rebounding department (51.0 rebounds per game to 27.5 opponent rebounds per game). 


A recap of each of the contest is below.


St. Mary’s (Texas) 68, at UTEP 62 (11/4/17)

Five different Miners reached double figures in scoring but visiting NCAA Division II St. Mary’s (Texas) used a barrage of three pointers to down UTEP, 68-62, in an exhibition contest at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 4. The Miners were clicking on all cylinders early with a 22-point first quarter, which helped propel them to a 35-27 advantage at the half. The visiting Rattlers came out firing after the break, eventually pulling ahead by 12 (61-49) with 7:36 to play in the game. UTEP scored the game’s next 10 points to help fuel a 13-1 run to even the tilt at 62 with 2:25 remaining. But St. Mary’s, which finished 21-7 a year ago, received back-to-back triples from Sierra Dixon to decide the game. The long-distance hits were part of 14 on the day for St. Mary’s, including five alone in the final frame. Jordan Alexander (14 points) led a quintet of Miners in double figures offensively, with Katarina Zec (12 points), Najala Howell (12 points), Tamara Seda (10 points) and Jakeira Ford (10 points) joining her. Seda pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds for a double-double, which also helped UTEP win the boards, 46-33. UTEP shot it reasonably well at 40.7 percent (24-59), but it struggled from beyond-the-arc at 26.7 percent (4-15). While the Miners held St. Mary’s to 35.4 percent shooting (23-65), they allowed the Rattlers to drill 14-of-31 (45.2 percent) from downtown.


at UTEP 99, Sul Ross State 40 (10/29/17)

UTEP raced out to a 52-17 halftime lead and never looked back on the way to a 99-40 exhibition win against Division III Sul Ross State at the Don Haskins Center on Oct. 29. Senior Tamara Seda dominated with a monstrous double-double (23 points, 15 rebounds) while sophomore Katarina Zec (23 points, nine boards) and junior Najala Howell (18 points, seven rebounds) also had big days. Seda also added four blocks and four steals. The Miners shot 50.0 percent (32-64) from the floor, including 45.5 percent (10-22) from distance, while also nailing 86.2 percent (25-29) at the charity stripe. It was a different story for the visiting Lady Lobos, who were harassed into 22 turnovers and held to 25.9 percent (15-58) from the floor. UTEP also took care of business on the boards, outrebounding Sul Ross State, 56-22. Seda led the way with a game-high 15 boards while Jordan Alexander pulled down 11 caroms. Alexander added eight points in her Miner debut. An area of concern for UTEP was turnovers with 19, but 14 of those came in the first half.



UTEP returned eight letter winners (Faith Cook, Jakeira Ford, Najala Howell, Roeshonda Patterson, Zuzanna Puc, Tamara Seda, Rachel Tapps and Katarina Zec) from last year’s squad (8-23, 5-11 Conference USA). Puc, Seda and Zec all started for UTEP in 2016-17. The Miners also added four newcomers (Jordan Alexander, Ariona Gill, Jordan Jenkins and Neidy Ocuane) but Gill and Ocuane are slated to take a redshirt year in 2017-18. The squad is under the direction of first-year head coach Kevin Baker, who is assisted by first-year assistants Nicole Dunson, Michael Madrid and Lori Morris.



Head coach Kevin Baker inherits a young team, with 60% of the active roster (6-of-10) comprised of sophomores (Faith Cook, Jakeira Ford, Roeshonda Patterson, Zuzanna Puc, Rachel Tapps and Katarina Zec). The Miners have just three upperclassmen, in the form of one senior (Tamara Seda) to go along with returning junior Najala Howell and junior-college transfer Jordan Alexander. Freshman Jordan Jenkins rounds out the active roster. Two other newcomers (junior-college transfers Ariona Gill and Neidy Ocuane) will sit out the 2017-18 season as redshirts.



Kevin Baker was appointed as the eighth head coach in UTEP women’s basketball history on Monday, April 24, 2017. He has a unique background which has seen him rise through the coaching ranks from high school level, to NCAA Division III, then NCAA Division II and now his NCAA Division I position at UTEP. Throughout his ascent, though, he has consistently found a way to win. He is 344-131 overall in his 16th year as a head coach, including 122-30 in his sixth season as a college head coach. He has set school records for wins at every stop of his career, and has taken every school to the playoffs with a total of five district championships. He is an eight-time Coach of the Year. In his stops most recently prior to UTEP, Baker’s teams captured back-to-back conference championships at UT-Tyler and Angelo State. Baker has led both a Division II (Angelo State) and Division III (UT-Tyler) school to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.



In terms of success rate in the first season on the sidelines, Carol Ammerman (11-5, 1974-75) and Janet Wood (11-16, 1979-80) share the platform for most victories by a Miner head coach in their initial campaign. Ammerman’s effort came in the first year of the program, and is also the lone winning record by a first-year Miner head coach in school history. Overall the prior seven head coaches at UTEP are a combined 54-120 (8-17 average record). Needless to say, Kevin Baker is hoping to buck that trend in 2017-18.



While head coach Kevin Baker and his three assistants (Nicole Dunson, Michael Madrid and Lori Morris) are in their first year at UTEP, they bring plenty of coaching experience to the Sun City. The quartet has a combined 93 years of coaching experience (Morris-37 years, Baker-23 years, Madrid-22 years and Dunson-11 years).



Tamara Seda recorded 10 double-doubles in 2016-17, the most since former Miner and current WNBA player Kayla Thornton compiled 19 in 2013-14. Seda also paced the team in blocks per game (1.6), field-goal percentage (49.5), and rebounds/game (9.0) while ranking second on the squad in scoring (9.6). Seda secured at least 14 boards in seven games last year, the must such contests in a single season by a Miner in at least 33 years (individual game-by-game records prior to 1982 incomplete). Her total rebounds (280) ranked fifth on the Miner single-season charts while the average (9.0) tied for seventh.



After accounting for 1.5 points per game as a freshman, Najala Howell picked up her scoring in a big way during her sophomore season in 2016-17. She finished at 7.9 points per game, which made her the top reserve scorer and placed her third overall on the team. She was at 6.1 ppg in non-conference play before improving to 8.5 points per game in C-USA action. Howell reached double figures in scoring 13 times; her season high as a freshman was six points.



As a freshman in 2016-17 Zuzanna Puc paced the seven Miner newcomers in scoring (6.4 points per game), rebounding (5.1 boards per game), blocked shots (25), field-goal percentage (45.6; 82-180), games started (23) and minutes played (21.4 minutes per game). She was a nuisance on the offensive glass, ranking second overall on the squad in offensive rebounds (62). Overall she finished third on the team in rebounds per game. She hit double figures in six games, including a stretch with four in a row during C-USA play.  Her efforts did not go unnoticed, as she became the first Miner in two years to be named the C-USA Freshman of the Week (1/30/17). An area of improvement in 2017-18 is fouls; she was tagged for 99 infractions as a freshman and fouled out seven times.



Sophomore Katarina Zec finished second among Miner newcomers and was sixth overall on the team in scoring in 2016-17 at 5.7 points game. She missed the final five games of non-conference play and first C-USA game after sustaining an injury on Dec. 5, but slowly but surely regained her form. Zec started in 19 contests out of 25 appearances, including the final 13 games. She reached double figures in scoring in six games, including consecutive contests late in C-USA action.



Sophomore Jakeira Ford put up 5.2 points per game while adding 3.4 rebounds per contest in 26 games played off the bench in 2016-17. She was the second-leading rebounding among Miner newcomers while ranking fifth overall on the squad in the category. Ford hit double figures in four contests while tallying at least eight points in nine games.



Sophomores Faith Cook and Roeshonda Patterson made a habit of letting it fly from distance in 2016-17, with each finishing with nearly identical numbers from downtown. Patterson connected on 22.8 percent (13-57) of her 3-pointers while Cook drained 19.3 percent (11-57). Inside the arc Patterson was 5-23 while Cook finished at 6-23. The 57 triple attempts tied for third overall on the squad.



The Miners have four newcomers to the squad in 2017-18 though two of the additions (junior Ariona Gill, 5-11, G/F, San Jacinto College) and junior Neidy Ocuane (5-5, G, Seward County CC) are slated to redshirt the 2017-18 season. Junior Jordan Alexander (5-11, F, Trinity Valley CC) and true freshman Jordan Jenkins (5-3, G, Buffalo HS) will both look to contribute immediately. Last year Alexander helped TVCC qualify for its 10th straight trip to the national tournament and finish with an overall record of 30-6. She put up 6.5 points per game while also grabbing 2.5 rebounds per game. Jenkins averaged 20 points, eight steals, seven assists and six rebounds to help her squad earn runner-up honors in Texas 2017 in the UIL 3A playoffs. Ocuane paced her team in assists per game (4.7) and steals per game (2.4) while ranking fourth in scoring (11.2). Her efforts helped it win the program’s first conference title in eight years.



UTEP is 547-648 in its 44th season as a women’s basketball program, including 0-0 in 2017-18.  The Miners have made four postseason bids (2016,-WNIT quarterfinals; 2014-WNIT runner-up, 2012-NCAA first round and 2008-NCAA second round), sporting a combined record of 9-4 (8-2 WNIT, 1-2 NCAA). UTEP has claimed four league championships (2016 C-USA regular season, 2012 C-USA regular season and conference tournament and 2008 C-USA regular season). It has a 1-1 record all time in league tournament title games, winning the title in 2012 and falling in 2008. There have been six 20+ win seasons (all since 2006-07), including four of the past six years. UTEP has cracked the top-25 poll in two seasons (2015-16, 2007-08), including being ranked in the final six weeks in ‘07-08, while receiving votes in eight campaigns total (‘15-16, ‘13-14, ‘12-13, ‘11-12, ‘08-09, ‘07-08 and ‘06-07). The Miners have been mentioned in the AP Preseason Poll four times, including garnering three points in 2016-17. In 2008 UTEP became the first C-USA women’s team to finish undefeated in league play (16-0) while claiming the program’s initial league title in 2008. The Miners finished 15-1 in C-USA in 2012 in addition to also winning the program’s first conference tournament championship. UTEP owns the C-USA single-season record for winning streak at 23, which was set in 2007-08. The University of Texas at El Paso (founded in 1914) recently enjoyed its centennial celebration. Notable alumni include former ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Sam Donaldson,  well-respected NFL referee Ed Hochuli, former NASA astronaut Danny Olivas engineer & Dennis Poon, who designed Taipei 101 & some of the tallest buildings in the world.



The Miners have the third-highest winning percentage among all DI programs in Texas since ‘06-07. Baylor (349-51, 87.3%), and Texas A&M (283-98, 74.3%) lead the way followed by UTEP (229-120, 65.6%).  Texas (234-133, 63.8%-4th), Lamar (210-134, 61.0%-5th), Stephen F. Austin (202-139, 59.2%-6th), TCU (199-151, 56.9%-7th), SMU (186-156, 54.4%-8th), Prairie View A&M (188-162, 53.7%-9th) and Texas Tech (178-173, 50.7%-10th) round out the top 10.



The Miners are 129-66 since the start of the 2011-12 season, with 77 double-digit victories in that time frame. UTEP has played postseason basketball in three of the past six seasons, making two deep runs in the WNIT (2014 runner-up, 2016 quarterfinals) and earning the C-USA automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament (lost, first round). It is has enjoyed 14 separate winning streaks of at least three games during that timeframe.



UTEP has an all-time home record of 351-214, including finishing 7-8 in El Paso in 2016-17. The Miners have amassed a record of 153-40 at home since 2006-07, including 86-23 over the past five years. Aiding that mark of 86-23 since 2011-12 was a school-record 19-1 home mark in 2015-16. The match-up against CSU Bakersfield is the first of 16 regular-season tilts at the Don Haskins Center in 2017-18. UTEP has been particularly strong in non-conference play, sporting a record of 75-11 at home in the situation since 2006-07.



The Miners received tremendous support to help propel them to a pair of deep runs in the WNIT (2014 runner-up honors, 2016 quarterfinals) in the past four years. UTEP averaged 7,773 fans per game during the 10 WNIT contests (8-2 record) in El Paso. Aiding those numbers were back-to-back sellouts , the first in program history, in the semifinals and finals of the 2014 WNIT. The Miners have ranked in the top-50 nationally for attendance in three of the past six years. UTEP placed 28th in 2013-14 (3,793 avg.), 42nd in 2012-13 (2,708 avg.) and 46th in 2011-12 (2,639 avg.). The Miners are 28-10 when playing in front of 4,000+ fans since 2001-02. They are 25-3 in the situation at the Don Haskins Center and 3-7 when doing so on the road.



UTEP is 139-355 all time on the road, including a record of 1-9 during the 2016-17 season. When playing at a neutral site the Miners stand 57-78, including five losses to power-five programs last season. Since the start of the 2006-07 season UTEP is 57-62 on the road, including 33-31 since 2011-12.



Redshirt-senior Tamara Seda ranks sixth in blocked shots (70), 12th in double-doubles (11) and tied for 27th in rebounds (420).


2016-17 IN REVIEW

The UTEP women’s basketball program went through a rebuilding year in 2016-17, finishing with a record of 8-23, including 5-13 in Conference USA play, before bowing out in the first round of the 2017 C-USA Championships. The youth-laden Miners lost all five starters from the 2015-16 season and returned only four letter winners from that squad, giving them a new look for the year. UTEP played its most challenging non-conference schedule in program history with a single-season school-record five games against teams from power five conferences. It went 0-5 in those contests while finishing 3-4 vs. non power league programs in non-conference play. Overall UTEP was saddled with a 2-9 start to the year before going 3-3 over the next six games. The Miners then lost a season-long six straight and eight of the next nine before posting back-to-back victories. UTEP dropped its final two games of the regular season and was upended by sixth-seeded Old Dominion in the first round of the C-USA Championships, 80-70.

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