The UTEP women’s basketball team will play host to St. Mary’s (Texas) in its lone exhibition game of the year at the Don Haskins Centers at 4:30 p.m. MT Saturday. The contest is part of a double header, with the UTEP men’s basketball team locking up with Southeastern Oklahoma State at 7 p.m.
Fans can attend both games of the doubleheader for one price. Upper reserved tickets are $8 and all other seats are $10.
All Miner women’s basketball season-ticket holders, or individuals with Pete’s Passes, will still be able to receive free admission.
The Miners, who will embark in earnest on their 39th in school history when they play host to Loyola Marymount on Nov. 10, have seven letterwinners back from their record-setting 2011-12 squad that won both the Conference USA regular-season and tournament titles.
Senior forward Anete Steinberga (5.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg & 0.8 apg), junior forw Kayla Thornton (9.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 0.9 apg & 1.1 spg) and junior guard Kelli Willingham (7.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg & 2.7 apg) are all returning starters. Also back are sophomore guards Jenzel Nash (5.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg & 0.9 apg), Chrishauna Parker (5.3 ppg, 3.6 rgp & 1.1 apg) and Syerra Davis (1.1 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 0.1 apg), in addition to senior forward Kristine Vitola (5.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg & 1.5 bpg). Also back is sophomore walk-on Marissa Rodriguez.
Those returnees account for six of the top-seven scorers and four of the top-five rebounders from a year ago. Overall they have combined to play in 313 games, including 149 starts, during their respective careers.
There will be a large burden of responsibility placed on the veterans, as the Miners lost seven seniors to graduation. That was the largest class in program history. Headlining that group was 2012 C-USA Tournament MVP & second-team all-league honoree Gloria Brown. Also lost from the team were starters Kim Smith & Erika Warren, in addition to key reserves Baiba Eglite, Briana Green, Whitney Houston and Melisa Mendes.
Helping fill the void will be seven newcomers, in the form of five true freshmen and a pair of transfers.
Patrolling the sidelines for the Orange and Blue will be 12th-year head coach and the school’s all-time wins leader, Keitha Adams. She will be assisted by Ewa Laskowska, who has been with Adams throughout her entire tenure, and third-year assistant coach Bill Damuth.
Adams and her staff have done a tremendous job in building the program into a consistent winner. The Miners possess the best overall winning percentage of all league schools since joining Conference USA (2005-06), boast the third-most victories among DI programs in the state of Texas over the past six years and sport a trio of C-USA crowns (2007-08 regular season & 2012 C-USA regular-season & tournament).
St. Mary’s is a highly-successful division II program, and it is under the direction of seventh-year head coach Jason Martens. He has produced a record of 111-63 in that time frame, putting him as the school’s all-time victories leader. The Rattlers, who were tabbed second in the Heartland Conference preseason poll, return three key players from last year’s team (13-16).