El Paso, TEXAS - Some thought this would be a depleted team. Some thought the season was lost, but the UTEP Men's basketball team has silenced the doubters after three players were kicked off the team following an FBI gambling investigation.
UTEP is 5-1 since McKenzie Moore, Jalen Ragland, and Justin Crosgyle have been given the boot, including snapping two double digit home winning streaks against Middle Tennessee and UAB.
It has been pretty clear as to why they have turned things around statistically- It's all about playing defense.
"That's our identity right now as a team," UTEP Forward John Bohannon said. "We're a tough defensive team, one of the best field goal percentage defenses in the nation, and that's who we are that's our identity."
When looking at the Miners defensive numbers the past six games, its clear they have been a pair to their opponents. UTEP allows just 60 points per game, and are holding opponents to 37 percent shooting. The Miners have been even stingier with the 3-point shot, holding opponents to just 25 percent from beyond the arc.
Not only has the defense stepped up but the emergence of freshman forward Vince Hunter has also helped the Miners. Hunter has led the team in scoring the past three games and was recognized as the Conference USA Freshman Player of the Week.
"We can play with anybody really right now, if we focus in on defense and that's all we put in our effort, we can win any game," UTEP forward Vince Hunter said.
UTEP's next three games will be at the Don Haskins Center where Tim Floyd will try and get career victory number 400 Saturday. If the recent trend holds true, then it seems safe to say defense will be the reason the Miners continue to thrive.
-Albert Gamboa, ABC-7 Sports Intern