The Miners entered Wednesday night's contest looking to rebound from Saturday's home loss at the hands of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. And, while things started out in the Miners favor, this one ended up being as far from a rebound as possible.
Following buckets by John Bohannon and Julian Washburn in the opening moments of the game, the Miners found themselves up 5-0. However, that was the largest lead they would enjoy, and they wouldn't hold on to it for very long.
The Cougars were able to take the lead on a Daniel House three pointer just passed the 17 minute mark, and while UTEP was able to tie the game on a couple of occasions, Houston held on to their lead for the rest of the night.
The Miners would only be down by four at 30-26 with under five minutes to play in the first, but the Cougars used a 13-3 run to end the half and took a 14 point lead into the locker rooms.
UTEP continued to fight in the second half, cutting the Cougars' lead to single digits on multiple occasions, including to eight with about six minutes to play, but that was as close as they would come the rest of the way. From there, the Cougars outscored the Miners 13-5, and walked away with the 79-61 victory.
The Miners were led by Julian Washburn who finished with 17 points on 6-11 shooting, to go along with 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. John Bohannon chipped in with 11 points and 5 boards in 30 minutes of action, and Konner Tucker finished with 10 points.
The Cougars were led by TaShawn Thomas who had a game high 24 points to go along with 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Daniel House finished with 19 points on 5-6 shooting, and also had 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Jherrod Stiggers finished with 13 points off the bench, and Joseph Young chipped in with 12.
For the game the Miners shot a decent 44.7% from the field, but it simply wasn't good enough as they allowed the Cougars to shoot better than 55%. The Cougars also shot 69.2% from 3 point range to the Miners' 29.4%, and outrebounded the Miners 36-22.
The loss drops the Miners to 13-10 overall and 6-4 in conference play, while the victory improves Houston to 15-8 overall, and 4-6 in league play. UTEP now sits alone in 4th in Conference USA, a single game ahead of both ECU and Tulsa.
Coach Tim Floyd had this to say following the loss:
"I'm not very happy with our effort, starting with defensive transition...Our guards didn't get back. We were not good on the boards. We got outrebounded 2-to-1. Our screen and roll coverage was not very good as well...We got it down to seven or eight and we didn't rebound missed free throws. We got it down to seven or eight and let Joseph Young get loose on drives to the rim...They were better than us in all areas, and we took a step back tonight."
While one could point out the obvious, glaring stats that made a huge difference in the game; at this moment something seems to have gone wrong with this team. Much has been made of the "situation" with John Bohannon over the last couple of weeks, and that could have something to do with it, but more than that they just haven't played that sound fundamental basketball we are used to seeing in a Tim Floyd team.
Frankly, while the record doesn't exactly indicate it, this team started taking steps backwards long before tonight's loss. They scored 42 points at Tulsa. They should of beat SMU by 20+, but let them hang around. They got outplayed at ECU, but snuck out a win. They had the terrible setback at UAB. They handled struggling Tulane and Rice teams at home, but have since had these two extremely poor performances.
To put this one into perspective, the last win the Cougars had of more than 11 points came on January 3rd against Texas Pan American. Also, this ties for the worst loss the Miners have suffered in C-USA play since they got beat 96-70 at Southern Miss back on March 4th of 2008 (also lost by 18 to Memphis in last year's conference tournament).
Now, the season is far from lost. There is still plenty of basketball to be played. However, the team that we have seen over the last couple weeks, is not the same team that entered C-USA play looking like a possible contender for the league title. They have certainly regressed, and at the worst possible time.
The Miners are in the midst of a stretch of road games in three of four, and that includes contest at both NMSU and Southern Miss. They next play at home against UCF on Saturday, and following those two mentioned road games, they'll still have to take on league leader Memphis. Again, there's still time for this team to get things headed back in the right direction, but they've got to do in a hurry.