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Men's basketball: North Texas falls 65-60 in thriller at UTA

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Clay Massey, Sports Clerk

ARLINGTON — It all culminated in a wild finish, but the Texas-Arlington Mavericks staved off a fierce North Texas effort Saturday night.  

The Mavericks (7-1) were led by a two-pronged attack in a 65-60 win over North Texas. Senior forward Kevin Hervey had 23 points while senior guard Erick Neal contributed 20.

Despite 15 points from senior forward Shane Temara and 14 points from sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart, UNT coach Grant McCasland's squad came up just short after a Hervey layup with 22 seconds left made it 62-60.

"This is one that got away," McCasland said. "From a belief standpoint and from a buy-in standpoint, we're still not all the way there. Until that happens, you just can't win. We've got to get over the hump in that regard."

The game started slow for both sides as they attempted to feel each other out. The Mavericks especially struggled to shoot after jumping out to a 9-6 lead. With 8:19 left in the first half, Hervey placed in a bucket off a free throw rebound.

His lay-in stopped a four-minute scoring drought for UTA that saw North Texas take off on a 9-0 run. The Mean Green took a 17-14 lead off the spark that junior guard Jorden Duffy provided off the bench with five points and two rebounds in the half.

The Mavericks  bounced back behind eight first-half points from Hervey to take a 24-22 lead into the locker room.

"I feel like the guys that were on the floor played really hard," Smart said. "It was a close one. It was one we just lost."

In the second half, the Mean Green went over four minutes without a bucket as UTA got out to a 36-25 lead with 14:44 to play. Freshman forward Zach Simmons' only bucket of the night ended the drought.

The Mean Green scored just six points in the first seven minutes of the half before sophomore walk-on guard DJ Draper made three free throws, and a quick bucket off a UTA turnover made it 42-33 with 11:45 to play.

Draper injected a bit of defensive energy as he kept Neal quiet. Temara was the first to reach double digits for North Texas before guard Ryan Woolridge laid it in to make it a 44-40 Maverick lead with 9:53 to play.

Temara finished with a double-double with 14 rebounds. 

"I thought DJ handled himself pretty good," Temara said, "for bringing the ball up and just starting to play more recently. I think maybe early turnovers were kind of bad, but they handled it very well, especially on the drive-and-kick."

Smart tied the game at 53 before Woolridge fouled out. Smart banked in a massive 3 to give North Texas a 58-57 lead with 1:50 to play.

A few possessions later, Hervey's dagger gave UTA a 62-60 lead with 22 seconds to play. Three Maverick free throws ended it.

"We wanted to keep [Hervey] away from the basket," McCasland said. "We wanted to make him settle for deep 3s, but he got some offensive rebounds. It was really fun to see — for us to play that bad and still have a chance to win. It's a credit to those dudes and their grit."

North Texas will host Indiana State on Wednesday.