EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Historically, any team coached by Joe Golding has been a defensive juggernaut, no matter the opponent.

The fact that UTEP (6-3) has allowed over 90 points in each of its last two games against Division I teams is something that has Golding flummoxed and seething as the Miners get ready to host Louisiana Tech (6-3) on Saturday night to open Conference USA action.

UTEP gave up 95 points to New Mexico State on Nov. 30; then, on Dec. 10, the Miners allowed 91 points to DePaul. The Miners lost both of those games by over 20 points.

“We’ve got to figure it out; we’re not playing good basketball right now,” Golding say on Wednesday afternoon. “We have to get back to UTEP basketball as far as what that means defensively.”

Before two weeks ago, the last time a team coached by Golding allowed over 90 points was in 2016, when he was still at Abilene Christian and the Wildcats were transitioning to Division I from Division II.

Golding knew coming into 2022-23 that the Miners might struggle to score the ball. Against Division I teams, UTEP has not scored more than 72 points yet this season and has shot just 26% from three-point range.

Multiple times, that’s still been a winning recipe; before the last two D-I games vs. NMSU and DePaul, no UTEP opponent had scored more than 72 points this year (No. 12 Texas to open the season).

The difference in the last two blowout losses for the Miners has been the three-point line and how well the opposition has shot the ball. NMSU (12-24) and DePaul (14-27) both shot over 50% from three, while UTEP went a combined 8-35 (23%) in those two games from deep.

Golding has already said multiple times this season that defending the three-point line will be a key all year. It’s hard to imagine UTEP winning many games in which the opposition shoots better than 50% from behind the arc.

“Is it scheme, or is it the guys not doing what they’re asked to do? Are there changes that we can make? The bottom line is that the three-point line is an important stat for us this year,” Golding said. “We don’t shoot the ball necessarily great and we can’t let other teams separate.”

Now welcoming LA Tech to the Don Haskins Center on Saturday night, the Miners will be confronted with a similar problem they faced vs. NMSU and DePaul. The Bulldogs shoot 38% from deep and average 10 three-point makes per game.

They also bring back a bulk of their team, including three players that average double-figures: Cobe Williams (17.3 points), Keaston Willis (12.8 ppg) and Isaiah Crawford (12.1 ppg).

Defending those three players will once again be a huge key for UTEP if it wants to pick up the pieces from two tough games. The Miners and Bulldogs tip off at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Don Haskins Center.