March 3, 2018
Conference USA stats
DENTON - Sophomore Ryan Wooldridge caught fire in the second half, scoring 15 or his 17 points, but a UTEP dunk with under three seconds to go gave the Miners the lead and a 68-66 victory over North Texas on Saturday night at the Super Pit.
North Texas (15-16, 8-10 C-USA) and UTEP (11-19, 6-12 CUSA) traded baskets back and forth as time wound down in the second half. The game featured 16 ties and 14 lead changes where the Miners scored the final bucket.
Sophomores Roosevelt Smart and A.J. Lawson contributed with key baskets in crunch time, including a Lawson free throw that tied the game with 15 seconds to go. After Lawson missed on his second free throw, UTEP guard Omega Harris collected the rebound and found Matt Willms for the alley-opp that led the Miners to victory.
"We just didn't guard (that last play) well," head coach Grant McCasland said. "They set a high-ball screen and we just didn't guard it well. We froze and did not execute well enough defensively on that last play."
After a sluggish start to begin the second half, a three-pointer from senior Shane Tamara shrunk the Miner lead to just two points. The shift in momentum led to Woolridge scoring nine straight points for the Mean Green, including making two straight three-pointers.
Lawson and Smart followed that up with a combined 13 straight points between the two. Both players would go on to score 16 points each on the game.
Freshman Zachary Simmons also made his presence felt early on Senior Night with hustle on both sides of the ball, fighting for loose balls and being effective in the paint. Simmons would foul out with under two minutes to go, exiting the game with eight points and a game-high eight rebounds.
As the Mean Green turn their focus to the Conference USA Tournament, McCasland believes that the close games North Texas has battled in all throughout the season will have them prepared for tournament play.
"We've got the experience with the close games," McCasland said. "With this time of year, you need to be able to hit the reset button and decide not to lose. You better have a resolve that you are going to win."
- It was Senior Night for Shane Temara and Bryce Jackson
- Ryan Woolridge finished the regular season with 170 assists, placing him third on the single-season assist list in Mean Green school history
- North Texas ended the regular season with 246 three-pointers, second-best in school history.
The Mean Green will be back in action at the C-USA Tournament on Wednesday, March 7, at The Star in Frisco as the No. 7 seed against 10th seeded LA Tech at 8:30 p.m. on Court A.