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February 25, 2013Even after a disastrous start to the season that saw the UTEP men's basketball team stumble to an 1-4 record, the Miners were able to regroup while causing Conference USA to take notice as UTEP improved to 11-7 (4-1 C-USA) following a miracle buzzer beater from McKenzie Moore at East Carolina back at the end of January.
With just one road loss to Tulsa, UTEP was still in a position to hang with the big boys (Memphis and Southern Mississippi) at the top of the standings.
How quickly things have changed.
Fast forward to this past Saturday night's road loss to NMSU and it is evident this particular UTEP team cannot overcome their road problems as the Miners are 2-7 away (2-4 C-USA and 0-3 non-conference) from the Don Haskins Center and have fallen to 14-12 overall on the season (including four straight road losses).
The unfortunate part of this past week's road results is UTEP was in a position in back-to-back road games with Southern Mississippi and NMSU to turn the page on the road issues, but monumental setbacks in the second half of both games are the difference between a respectable 16-10 record and the disappointing 14-12 mark the Miners possess at the present time.
In Hattiesburg the Miners, behind a superb defensive effort holding the Golden Eagles to 45 points, UTEP couldn't buy a bucket for over nine minutes in the second half after leading by five which essentially slammed the door on any chance to pull off a major road upset.
Most recently in Las Cruces after a forgettable first half, UTEP's offense exploded in the second half and led NMSU by nine with just under five minutes to play in the game.
The Miners were in complete control of the game and most thought the game was in the bag.
The Aggies closed the game on a 16-3 run aided by some careless turnovers, poor defense and a stagnant offense to pull off an amazing comeback.
Most could argue a loss at Southern Mississippi is not a surprise and I can admit I penciled in a loss when I made my predictions on the season.
Even a loss at NMSU is not shocking.
The way they lost both contests is what is alarming, UTEP had both teams right where they wanted them and they could not close the deal.
Road games are no cakewalks, but this team is better than their record indicates.
With four games to go (two at home and two on the road), including a huge home matchup with Memphis (March 5), UTEP has one last opportunity to cure some of their road ills while trying to stay in the top four of C-USA which includes an all important bye in the C-USA tournament.