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March 16, 2013Aside from a few times this season, the UTEP defense could always be counted on to keep the Miners competitive night after night.
Leading up to the Conference USA tournament and even in a quarterfinal win over Houston this past Thursday, the defense was the least of UTEP's worries heading into yesterday's matchup with Southern Mississippi.
Fine, the officiating was terrible and put UTEP in a tough position especially in the first half with Julian Washburn picking up three early fouls (one which was on a technical that could have been avoided), but when push came to shove the defense was a no-show in a 85-67 semifinal loss to the Golden Eagles.
When the offense struggled this season, the defense was right there to keep the Miners in the game and unfortunately in the biggest game of the season to date their defense abandoned them.
Did the early foul calls affect their ability to defend?
Where the players thinking about coach Tim Floyd still considering the USC job?
The plain and simple answer is the Golden Eagles wanted it more on both ends of the court, as the Miners could never mount a charge especially on a defense.
Nothing wrong with giving credit where credit is due, Southern Miss dictated the tempo and played the type of defense even the great Don Haskins would have applauded.
Let's face it, UTEP lost to a better team and as tough as it is to move on, the Miners must pick up the pieces and move forward regardless of a postseason appearance (CIT or CBI).
So what now?
There are a few that still believe Floyd might jump ship to USC and there are no guarantees when it comes to college basketball, however, barring a shocking departure, Miner fans shouldn't be too worried.
It may sound like a broken record, but help is on the way with Floyd's nationally ranked incoming recruiting class, which includes McDonalds All-American Isaac Hamilton (Yes, he is still coming to UTEP).
Not exactly comforting with the wound of the Southern Mississippi loss still fresh, hang in there Miner fans things will get better.
The foundation may be taking a little longer than most fans were expecting, but based on the coming attractions to the Don Haskins Center, UTEP basketball will be back on the map as soon as next season.
On a brighter note, spring football in underway and the season is just over six months away.
Josh Puga can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at @jpuga1966. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.