File photo by Ruben R. Ramirez | El Paso Herald Post

Miners start hot, North Texas pulls away late to win 74-65

DENTON, Texas – After a lackluster effort, UTEP came back the next day with a better performance. However North Texas used a late run to complete its sweep with a 74-65 victory on Saturday afternoon at the Super Pit.

After dismal shooting on Friday night, the Miners (6-6, 2-4 Conference USA) got off to a hot start on Saturday, hitting 12 of their first 20 field goal attempts, while taking a 29-21 lead at the 5:08 mark after scoring only 33 points the night before. However, the Mean Green (7-5, 3-1 C-USA) shot over 53 percent from the floor, and hit 8-of-16 three pointers.

“I give my guys a lot of credit. They came back and fought hard. We played one of our worst games of the year yesterday and we came back in here today and we had a lot of perseverance in terms of competing and trying to win this ball game today,” third-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “I thought [we] did a great job in terms of trying to get stops. We needed a couple of really good stops down the stretch, and have a ball bounce our way. We were right there with a play here and a play there that we needed to make to win the ball game.”

North Texas used hot free-throw shooting to pull away down the stretch after UTEP had taken a 55-54 lead on a Bryson Williams’s layup with 5:35 to play. From that point, the Mean Green outscored the Miners 20-10 on a perfect 12-of-12 effort from the foul line. With the score 59-57 in favor of UNT, Williams used a jumper in the paint to tie the contest. But Javion Hamlet’s layup gave the Mean Green the go-ahead lead with 3:07 to play.

Williams led all scorers with 17 points after only scoring four points on Friday night, and grabbed seven rebounds. Christian Agnew came off the bench and provided a spark, scoring 15 points, with 13 of those coming during the first half. Souley Boum scored all 14 of his points in the second half, going 8-of-10 from the foul line.

Tydus Verhoeven led UTEP with eight rebounds, while the Miners outrebounded UNT, 32-30, and 12-4 on the offensive glass. UTEP dished out 11 assists, as Jamal Bieniemy and Boum each registered three.

UNT saw five players hit double figures with Hamlet (13 points) and Zachary Simmons (13 points) leading the way. JJ Murray (11 points), Rubin Jones (11 points) and James Reese (10) also recorded double figures. Reese led with seven rebounds, while Hamlet dished out a game-high five assists.

After allowing UTEP to shoot 60.0 percent to start the game, the UNT defense clamped down, and limited the Miners to only 9-of-36 shooting (25.0 percent), including 37.5 percent overall from the floor. Following an Agnew bucket at the 5:08 mark that gave UTEP the eight-point lead (29-21), the Miners missed their next seven field goal attempts, as the Mean Green used a 7-2 run to get within a point (31-30) at the half.

At the midway point of the second period, UTEP took a five-point lead on a Boum three at the 12:59 mark that was part of a 6-0 run. Boum, prior, started the run with a trio of made free throws. UNT responded with its own 6-0 spurt to take a 44-43 edge with 11:37 to play.

Up next, UTEP will host LA Tech on January 22 and 23. The Miners and Bulldogs will tipoff at 7 p.m. on Friday, and at 6 p.m. on Saturday in the Haskins Center.

The games can be heard on the home of UTEP Basketball 600 ESPN El Paso and the UTEP Miners app with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher calling the action, and will be streamed on ESPN+.