MEMPHIS — UTEP won one, lost one in the Conference USA Men’s Basketball Tournament — perhaps a microcosm of its season.
The Miners finished this youth attack on 2011-12 at 15-17, edging Houston in overtime and falling to a late assault from Memphis in the quarterfinals.
UTEP, though, almost certainly sealed its fate in this tournament in the final week of the regular season — losing at home to a so-so-Rice team and losing in Dallas to last-place SMU. A pair of wins in the final week would have put UTEP in the other half of the bracket ... in a place where it did not have to play host Memphis in the second round. Nothing is easy here, nothing is guaranteed. But nothing is harder than playing the host team — which is also the regular season conference champion ... which is also the team you just upset at home a few weeks ago.
Perhaps this was just another lesson learned for a young basketball team, another lesson in a season of lessons. You can never take a night off in Division 1 basketball. You can never take a team for granted in Division 1 basketball.
"We hung in there and hung in there and hung in there," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said of the Miners final loss to host Memphis.
The Miners trailed by seven with four minutes to play, got two defensive stops but could not score after either. After that, it fell apart and Memphis raced away to win 65-47.
"After that, it all turned into turnover and layup, turnover and layup, turnover and layup," Floyd said. "We'll probably remember this next year on Oct. 15, when we start practicing again and we're turning it over all over the court."
Put UTEP on the other side of this bracket and miracles could happen. Ask Marshall. The Thundering Herd were on the other side and they have raced all the way into the tournament championship game.