We all know it, in college basketball guards can win you games in March, and hang banners.
For the Miners, one guard just may not be enough.
Like asalom has brought up in previous write ups, and I have advocated this for awhile as well.
While the past two losses are not solely on C.J. Cooper, but when Coop is shut down on offense, so does the rest of the Miners offense.
UTEP had 7 assists compared to 17 turnovers, leading to 16 Tulsa points last night.
The two main ball handlers, Cooper and Julian Washburn, combined for 6 of those turns, and only 4 assists. UTEP has now had three straight games with over 10 turnovers, and has not put up a streak where they are under 10 a game all season. Floyd prided the past two seasons on the assist to turnover ratio the Miners had.
In the past two outings, C.J is 4/14 from the field, with 9 turnovers, and six dimes.
Not bashing the kid by no means, just pointing out the need for more consistent guard play if a March run is going to happen.
UTEP is 1-3 in conference play when Cooper scores less that 10 points, and 9-1 overall when he scores 10 or more points.
Now while Cooper has gone back into a small shooting slide, there is no denying or argument on how hard he is playing on the defensive end of the floor. Also C.J has gone up against some very talented guards, almost all by himself the past two games, something that is tough for any kid to do no matter what level of basketball.
Cooper teamed up with Washburn to hold James Woodard to 4/12 shooting. Cooper started the second half on him in the box and one, and was absolutely superb. All of Tulsa's guards have better 40 times than Coop, though I noticed they could not match his heart at times in his 36 minutes of action.
Which leads to my next point, is the Miners six to seven man rotation losing its steam?
I've said before that I don't think these kids should be physically tired, though I have noticed a mental flame out the past two games, when the polar opposite is needed.
Down the stretch against Tulsa, UTEP had numerous defensive lapses, most mentally. While Southern Miss's daggers knocked the wind out the Miners floaties, as they were fighting to stay alive once the Golden Eagles, err Aaron Brown started dropping those daggers.
Now back to last night.
Miners are down three with less than a minute left in game, on defense and a need a stop, bad, and instead of stopping ball, Tevin Caldwell gambles, Rashad Ray blows right by him and lays it in putting this one away.
After that the wheels fell off in an ugly way, and for the second straight time this year, really the only two times with this new group, the Miners were beat mentally down the down the stretch. The Miners displayed a frustrated emotion and body language that hadn't been seen or heard from since the UNO debacle
Tulsa, and Southern Miss exposed an important part of championship team formula, bench production.
Now we can argue: well UTEP doesn't have a bench, and now that's the problem.
UTEP has been outscored 52-12 off the bench in the past two losses, and most have came while the Miners are in the middle of their short rotation.
The speed of the past two group of guards have the gave the Miners fit, especially during those minutes when guys need a blow, and Floyd is doing his best to pit guys in the right matchups.
Vince Hunter has done a better job at guarding the perimeter, but does make huge freshman mistakes on the defensive end during certain possessions, I'm sure he learned not to foul a three-pointer shooter in practice today.
Caldwell has shown promise on defense coming off the bench for Washburn, and Hunter, and will probably be called upon again for a stop or within the next two weeks. Keep working hard and redeem yourself, Tev.
Let me make this clear: don't give up on this team, two losses are tough but still plenty remains to played for.
With UTEP now looking from the outside in, its time to find another identity within this team, and kick that door back in starting Sunday afternoon.
And just keep in mind about the four guards coming in next year, while PLENTY of hope still remains for this year, keep calm and be a Miner fan!