Where did this come from?
How does a team straight lose on the boards by 21, get dominated in paint points and second chance points -- 26-12 and 15-5, not-so-respectively -- yet win by 17?
UTEP won the 200th meeting between the Miners and the New Mexico State Aggies -- brought to you nowadays by your Route 44 Blue Coconut Slush -- and they won it going away, 73-56.
They led at the half by nine despite only shooting a single free throw...and missing it.
Even the statistical categories UTEP won weren't won in dominating fashion -- excepting the most important one, of course. Seven fewer turnovers. Five more steals. Two more fast break points.
The Miners won this game by threes.
Randy Culpepper and Christian Polk were throwing rocks in a pond in the first half, no matter how far the toss.
Polk has never had an offensive night like he did against the Aggies, not at Arizona State nor at UTEP. His 25 points (5-of-8 from distance) is a career high.
Culpepper (4-of-10 three-point shots) scored all nine of his first half points from beyond the arc and finished with 15.
But it was Tim Floyd-Don Haskins-style defense that kept NMSU chasing them through a colder-shooting, clunky second half.
The afternoon of the game, a reliable source said UTEP was favored by 12 in Las Vegas.
It is certainly better and more meaningful than being favored by 12 in Sheboygan, but puzzling considering this is a rivalry game and that the Aggies size and athleticism might be difficult to match.
Good thing smart-aleck hunches weren't backed up by a prideful wallet. You might think that's smart money, but Vegas is always smarter.
They knew the Aggies had played a lot of tough competition on a long road trip and might not be at their best.
Indeed, this was the case. This, and a stifling defense that held NMSU's Troy Gillenwater at bay. Specifically, it was Julyan Stone, who didn't score much, but shadowed Gillenwater enough to keep the Aggies' star from creating momentum for the visitors.
Gillenwater finished with a double-double, but by the time his numbers were meaningful UTEP was flirting with a double-digit lead, manufactured out of defensive sweat and offensive pixie dust.
They'll need more of both against Georgia Tech Friday. Head coach Tim Floyd agrees.
NMSU coach Marvin Menzies simply looked relieved to be off the road.