College basketball coaches will always tell you there are two seasons, non-conference and conference.  Some coaches like to pad their non-conference record with a cupcake schedule, but most coaches like to battle test their teams with a variety of opponents.

Tim Floyd did the latter in his second year at UTEP.  The Miners went on the road to face Oregon and Vegas.  They took on Clemson, Kansas State, and Auburn at a tournament in Hawaii.  They did play a few patsies along the way, but Floyd knew his young bunch could take no one for granted.

After a nightmare 1-4 start, the Miners finished the non-conference schedule 6-3.  Wins over Clemson, Auburn, and NMSU coupled with competitive losses to Oregon, Vegas, and Kansas State gave Miner fans hope that heading into conference this team would barely resemble the one that lost 53-35 to Stephen F. Austin.

A new year has arrived, and the Miners started conference play with little more than a whimper.  UTEP fell to Marshall 76-60 to start conference play 0-1.  At times the Miners resembled the team that defeated Clemson and Auburn while at other times they looked like they the team that lost to UTSA and SFA.

UTEP took a 20-12 lead midway through the first.  Marshall outscored the Miners 27-14 the final ten minutes to take a 39-34 halftime lead.

It was more of the same in the second half as UTEP could establish no flow or rhythm on offense.  Julian Washburn led the way with 15 points, but the Miners struggled to find consistent scoring.

Gabe McCulley picked up three quick fouls early in the second half and was forced to play tentative until finally fouling out with 8:08 to go.  Even if it doesn't show up in the box score, McCulley has a calming presence on this young team.  With McCulley relegated to the bench early in the second, the Miners seemed lost and struggled.

The Miners were also crushed on the boards, 40-20.  As usual, Marshall crashed the offensive glass.  The Herd has 15 offensive rebounds to the Miners' four.

The Miners will have little time to sulk as Houston is coming to the Haskins center on Saturday night.