Preview: UTEP at the Pit Tonight

Joe Auletta    @Lobo2x53


2018-19 Record 5-1 2-5
Scoring 81.0 ppg 64.1 ppg
Defense 69.5 ppg 61.4 ppg
Scoring Margin +11.5 +2.7
Rebounding Margin +6.2 +4.9
TO Margine +0.8 -0.8
Foul Margine +0.8 +5.4
# of 3 pt shots per game 26 20
3 pt shooting % 31.0% 29.5%
Returning players 6 4
Returning starters 1 2.5
# players > 10 min/gm 8 8

Tonight is essentially the third out of four rivalry games this season—OK, NMSU, and now UTEP. While UTEP is currently 2-5 for the season, they have ample motivation coming into this game. Last season the Lobo went to El Paso and soundly beat a UTEP team that had high hopes for the season, 59-35. The Miners were proud of being a tough, physical team led by their senior center, Tamar Seda. Seda got her double-double with 11 & 13, but the Lobos held the rest of the team to 6 for 32 shooting. After the game UTEP coach Kevin Baker had some angry words about how the Lobos were thugs and constantly manhandled Seda (who the Miner offence was built around).
Seda (graduated) and most the players are gone now, including their second leading scorer and best 3-pt shooter, Naj Howell—who just happens to sit on the UNM bench now as a RS. Only four players return for UTEP, but the events of last season’s game will be clearly told to the team—with an appropriate UTEP spin of course. The rest of the team roster has four freshmen and four JUCO transfers.
This season the team still revolves around their post, with 6’3” junior Zuzanna Puk filling the starting role vacated by Seda–he leads the team in minutes, scoring, rebounding, FG% (60.0%), steals, and blocks. In her spare time she is second in assists.
JUCO transfer Ariona Gil (#12, 6’0”) and returning 5’11” wing Katarina Zec (#44) are the other double digit scores. Zec and Jordan Alexander (#3) are the two major outside shooting threats though six players have shown a willingness to take the three. As a team they are not overly accurate from distance, hitting just under 30% from distance but close to 50% of their two point shots.
The point guard is 5’3” soph Jordan Jenkins (#0), who started about half the games last season and leads the team in assists.
This will be the first team the Lobos face that make a concerted effort to slow the game down, and one key will be whether UNM can keep TOs to a minimum and speed them up more than they want. The other key will be the interior defense against Puc, who is their primary offensive option, similar to Jaisa for UNM.