The UTEP women’s basketball team will challenge Loyola Marymount in the 2012-13 season opener for both teams at 1:05 p.m. at the Don Haskins Center Saturday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids, with fans also being able to exchange them afterward to gain admission to the UTEP football team’s game versus UCF at 5 p.m. Saturday.
The contest is the first of three straight at home to start the year for the Miners, who are 82-18 in El Paso over the past six years.
“Saturday is a big day as we officially start our season,” head coach Keitha Adams said. “We are excited to open here at The Don! I want to encourage all Miner fans to come cheer us on.”
2012 preseason All-Conference USA member Kayla Thornton (12), Anete Steinberga (11), Kristine Vitola (11) and Kelli Willingham (10) all reached double figures in scoring to help lead the Miners to a 69-60 exhibition game victory against St. Mary’s University on Nov. 3. Marring the win, though, was sophomore guard Jenzel Nash suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that will force her to miss the entire season.
Nash’s injury will put a greater burden of responsibility on the now six returning letterwinners from the record-setting 2011-12 squad that won both the Conference USA regular-season and tournament titles. Willingham (7.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg and 2.7 apg) Steinberga and Thornton all started a year ago. Sophomore guards Syerra Davis (1.1 ppg, 1.1 rpg and 0.1 apg) and Chrishauna Parker (5.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.1 apg) and senior forward Kristine Vitola (5.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg) return in addition to sophomore walk-on guard Marissa Rodriguez.
UTEP is 19-19 all time in season openers, including 16-6 in El Paso. The Miners are 6-5 in the situation during the Adams era, aided by a mark of 5-2 when doing so at home.
UTEP holds a 3-1 advantage in the series against Loyola Marymount, including a 68-48 road triumph last year (12/17/11). Prior to that contest, the two sides had not met since the 1990-91 campaign.
LMU tuned up for the tilt by running past The Masters, 88-58, in its lone exhibition game of the preseason on Nov. 3. Alex Cowling, a two-time first-team All-West Coast Conference honoree and the program’s career record holder for points (1,728), led all scorers in the game with 22. Hazel Ramirez and Melinda Gomez chipped in 15 and 12, respectively, to buoy Cowling.
While the Lions return three starters and 10 letterwinners overall from last year’s squad, they will have a different style of play. Charity Elliot was tabbed as head coach during the offseason after a successful five-year run at UC San Diego.
UTEP will continue its season-opening homestand by playing host to Houston Baptist (7:05 p.m., Nov. 16) and Pacific-12 power Arizona State (2:05 p.m., Nov. 18). It will be Boys And Girls Scouts Night against HBU, with free admission to members by wearing their uniform or showing their ID. The game against Arizona State will be highlighted by all kids getting in free. Otherwise, tickets will be $5 for adults and $3 for kids.