ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Katia Gallegos led all scorers with 25 points, while adding seven rebounds, four assists and a season-high four steals but it wasn’t enough as New Mexico (9-4) shot over 53 percent from the field to down UTEP (7-2), 78-66, at The Pit on Sunday night.
The Miners jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead, but the Lobos scored the next eight points and never relinquished the lead.
UTEP played without the services of leading scorer Destiny Thurman(16.0 ppg), who was a late scratch due to an injury she suffered at Texas State. Eliana Cabral ( 7.5 ppg and 3.4 rpg) also missed the game due to injury.
The Miners were down by as much as 18 points (35-17 at 3:42 third quarter) and went into the locker room down 38-25.
But UTEP battled back in the second half and trimmed the deficit to seven points during a pair of occasions on Gallegos’s hot hand.
The El Paso product converted a layup at the 5:18 mark of the third quarter to make the count 42-35, but the Lobos would score six straight points to extend the lead to 48-35. Gallegos hit another big shot for the Miners, as she drained a 3-pointer with 6:10 left in the game and cutting the lead to 64-57. However, UNM’s hot shooting pushed the lead to double digits (70-57) with 3:27 remaining.
“I’m proud of our team, but I think Destiny Thurman would’ve scored at least 12 [points] and Eliana Cabral would’ve scored around 10. You can’t play that game, but we all know that’s the reality,” UTEP Head Coach Kevin Baker said. “We just battled and battled, we cut the lead a few times, but gave up quick points. That’s something we have to get to the gym and fix. [New Mexico] is a terrific team. They have an ability to score which is really hard to guard them. They’re chaotic on offense, which is really hard to guard. But our kids just battled and they showed they are true competitors, they showed that they’re winners. We’re going to win games and we’re going to lose games. But if we battle like we did tonight, we’ll win more that we lose.”
UTEP cut the lead to eight points (74-66) after a Teal Battle and-1 with 51 seconds, but it was too little too late.
Battle finished with 10 points, as the graduate transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock went over 1,000 points (1,006) in her career (917 at ALR, 89 at UTEP). She hit the 1,000-point mark with a layup at the 7:58 mark of the third quarter. Battle chipped in with three assists and three boards.
Elina Arike added 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds. She tied career highs in assists (four) and steals (three). Brenda Fontana scored seven points, dished out two assists and grabbed five boards in over 19 minutes off the bench.
UTEP struggled from the floor, shooting 37.9 percent to UNM’s 53.3 percent. The Lobos hit 10-of-23 from downtown, while the Miners shot 9-of-24 from deep.
New Mexico’s LaTascya Duff (team-high 20 points) and sister LaTora (17 points) combined for 37 points, including a combined 8-of-17 shooting 3-pointers. LaTascya finished 5-of-9 behind the line, and 6-of-10 overall shooting.
Gallegos shot 8-of-21 from the field and a team-best 5-of-9 from downtown. She added a 4-for-4 effort from the foul line.
Gallegos, with her four assists on Sunday, now has 315 assists in her career move past Shalana Taylor (313 assists) for fifth on the program’s all-time assists’ list. Ana Valtierra ranks fourth with 324 dimes.
UTEP will host Air Force (6-4) on Tuesday, Dec. 21 in the Haskins Center. The Miners and Falcons are set to tip off at 11 a.m. The Miners own the series 2-0 as the two programs met twice during the 1997-98 season when both were members of the Western Athletic Conference. UTEP won the last meeting 77-51 on Feb. 14, 1998 in El Paso.