UNT 58, UTEP 51: Mean Green Outlast Miners for 8th Straight Win
In a tale of two halves, UTEP found itself down one score, 50-48, against North Texas, who had been the hottest team in the league and led as much as 13 points in the second half over the Miners.
After a 9-0 UTEP run, the Miners were able to claw themselves back into the game with under 200 seconds to go on the game clock.
The crowd was rockin', the players were cheering and there was hope that the Miners could steal their first C-USA win of the season at home.
That hope quickly evaporated two Mean Green possessions later, where Umoja Gibson nailed back-to-back corner 3-pointers to send North Texas over the top and close out the Miners 58-51 on Thursday night in front of 4,451 fans in the Don Haskins Center.
"We played a really good team today—one that had a lot of success last season in a post-season tournament and I think they really carried that over to this season," first-year head coach Rodney Terry said. "With their current roster, all those guys play significant minutes. You definitely see the difference out there. When you've won a post-season tournament, you know what it takes to win games. 50-50 balls, you have to have them... That's what we're trying to teach our guys is what it takes to win at this level. We're playing a number of young players that are giving me great effort but they're learning right now and they're getting baptized right now and I think it's really good for them."
North Texas (16-1, 4-0 C-USA) beat out UTEP on the glass at a whopping 43-28 and shot 41 percent from the floor, including five 3-pointers in the second half en route to their eighth straight win.
UTEP (5-9, 0-3 C-USA) has now lost three straight games and dropped four of their last five. A bright spot for the Miners was creating 18 turnovers on defense and finishing with a +5 turnover margin.
Freshman forward Efe Odigie led the Miners with 13 total points and eight boards, followed by Nigel Hawkins' 11 points. Jordan Lathon returned from his injury and scored nine points, had three assists and three steals.
In the first half, the Miners caught the Mean Green off guard with a swift 6-0 run. They even held North Texas to shooting just 11 percent from the floor in the first seven minutes, where they led 10-1.
North Texas would eventually claw back in the first half and finished the last 13 minutes with a 21-12 run. Both teams were tied at the half, 22-22, with neither team finding much success on offense.
The Mean Green stormed through the second half with a 19-6 run over the first 10 minutes of the second half. The Miners were left to play catch up for the remainder of the game, which they would eventually fall by seven to the top team in C-USA.
Four of the Mean Green players finished in double-digits, with Gibson and Roosevelt Smart scoring 13 points each. All eight players that had over 10 minutes for North Texas had three rebounds or better in the game as well.
Next up, the Miners will go on a quick turnaround as they host Rice on Saturday, Jan. 12 at the Don Haskins Center.