It was a tale of two halves. UTEP came out gunning in the first half, dominating nearly every facet of the game. Aggressive half-court defense had Butler's guards in complete disarray. Derrick Caracter dominated the paint and the Miners stormed into the half up six on the Bulldogs.
Then, all hell broke loose. Butler's Shelvin Mack came out on absolute fire, seemingly draining three after three and the Bulldogs exploded to a 22-4 run to open the half. The run put the game out of reach for an uninspired UTEP team that looked shell-shocked in the second half of the biggest game of the year.
Just Plain Sloppy: UTEP's guard play was simply terrible. On defense, relentless effort and pressure in the first half was replaced by lackadaisical effort in the second. Julyan Stone and Myron Strong were both non-factors. Randy Culpepper was injured midway through the second half and was in-and-out the rest of the contest. He looked frustrated. Stone had three turnovers.
Rebounds: The Miners dominated the glass in the first half (18-12) but were owned in the second half. Time and time again, Butler out-hustled the Miners for loose balls and earned second chance opportunities.
- Uninspired: It's hard to believe that a team could display a total lack of effort in the NCAA Tournament. But after Shelvin Mack drained some three pointers to begin the half, the Miners wilted on both sides of the floor. Only Derrick Caracter showed any fire on offense or defense.
- Three Point Misses: The Miners were a horrid 4/18 from the three point line. Butler simply couldn't miss in the second half. The Bulldogs drained 13 three's.
In the end, though, this season will be defined by the way the Miners ended it: on a two game losing streak to teams that had inferior athletic talent. Turnovers at the end of the Houston game cost the Miners a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament and a C-USA Tournament title. Today, when Butler's Shelvin Mack drained three pointer after three pointer, the Miners couldn't muster any type of response. The second half was never close. We all have a bad taste in our mouth right now because UTEP didn't show any fight down the stretch.
Yes, in the grand scheme of things, this season was a success. And, the sting of today's loss will wear off at some point. But, right now, we are all justly disappointed because when the chips were down, UTEP folded a good hand.