Survive and advance is a common expression used this time of year in the world of college basketball.  There is no need to win with style.  As Al Davis says, 'Just win baby.'  The UTEP Miners survived a frisky SMU Mustang team today at Moody Coliseum. I jokingly refer to Moody as Haskins Center east because there always seems to be a larger contingent of Miner fans than Mustang fans every time UTEP plays there.  While there was a nice UTEP crowd this afternoon, most of the 4,076 fans in attendance were trying to will their ponies to an improbable victory.

UTEP got off to an electric start, taking an early 13-4 lead.  SMU clawed back into the game, but the Miners took a 32-22 lead into the locker room.  Christian Polk was the money man in the first half with 14 points including 4-5 from long range.  The senior seems to have regained his form, and not a moment too soon.

SMU made things interesting in the second half.  The Mustangs got hot while the Miners cooled off.  Mustang senior Papa Dia was held to six points in the first half, but as Dan Patrick once famously said, 'You can't stop him you can only hope to contain him.'  As well as the Miners contained Dia in the first half he was able to score 13 big points in the second half.  UTEP missed five crucial free throws in the second half and SMU had a chance to send the game into overtime with a last second three.  Robert Nyakundi's desperation heave fell woefully short and the Miners were able to escape with a 59-56 victory.

As important as the victory was for the Miners morale, they assured themselves a first round bye at the upcoming C-USA tournament next week in El Paso.  The Miners are likely to open their tournament Thursday at 5:30 p.m.  Only UAB or Tulsa can clinch the number one seed, but the Miners can be c0-champions of the league if East Carolina upsets the Blazers in Birmingham later tonight.  As bleak as things seemed when the Miners dropped three out of four, they ended their 2010 regular season strong with three straight victories.  El Paso's version of 'March Madness' next week at the C-USA tournament promises to be exciting.

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