And at that point Harden went to work.
The Sophomore, who scored 19 points in the first half, along with some long distance sharp shooting from his teammates, engineered a 19-2 run to take a 30-20 lead at the 9:47 mark.
Harden went on to score 13 of ASU's next 16 points in the remainder of the period and helped the Devils overcome their common rebounding struggles. ASU lead by as many as 14 points in the first stanza, but settled for a nine-point advantage, 46-37, at the half.
The second half began with, who else, Harden scoring ASU's first ten points, yet midway through the period the Devils still weren't able to significantly pad their lead, holding a 64-51 edge at the 11:03 mark.
Nonetheless, for the rest of the contest the maroon and gold's signature zone defense finally started to frustrate the Miners who were outscored 24-7 the rest of the way and culminated in a comfortable win against an opponent who had played well in the first two rounds of this tournament.
Harden's 40 points required him to make just 14 out of 25 shots, including 6 of 7 from 3-point range. He also paced the Devils with eight rebounds, and set a tournament record in points scored with 87. Arizona State is 16-4 when Harden scores at least 20 points in a game.
Abbott was the only other Sun Devil in double figures with 12. Derek Glasser led all players with seven assists.
Arizona State made a season-high 13 three point baskets, and shot a torrid 44.8% from that range. The Sun Devils shored up their rebounding struggles in the second half and finished with 40-27 advantage on the glass, including a dozen offensive caroms.
UTEP was held to just 30.2 % from the field and was led by Randy Culpepper's 24 points.
The Sun Devils return home on Thursday December 4th to face Jackson State. Tip-off from Wells Fargo Arena is 7 pm.