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Chalk talk: UNT at UTEP

Profile image for Brett Vito
Brett Vito, Staff Writer

North Texas at UTEP

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Don Haskins Center, El Paso

Records: UNT 7-6, UTEP 5-7

TV: CUSA.TV

Radio: KNTU-FM 88.1, KHYI-FM 95.3

Last game: Georgetown 75, UNT 63; UTEP 5-7

UNT projected starting lineup:

PG: Ryan Woolridge (6-3, Soph.) -- Woolridge enters UNT's game against UTEP on a tear offensively. He has scored 20 points in back-to-back games to boost his scoring average to 13.5 points per game. Woolridge tied his season high with nine assists in UNT's loss to Georgetown and has at least five assists in each of his last four games. 

G: A.J. Lawson (6-5, Soph.) -- Lawson endured a tough shooting night in UNT's loss to Georgetown. He missed all three of his 3-point attempts and went 1-for-4 from the free throw line. Lawson still managed to score nine points and enters UNT's game against UTEP averaging 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

G: Roosevelt Smart (6-3, Soph.) -- Smart saw his streak of eight straight games scoring in double figures come to an end in UNT's loss to Georgetown. The sophomore went 3-for-18 from the floor and finished with seven points against the Hoyas. He is averaging 17.6 points per game. 

F: Zachary Simmons (6-9, Fr.) -- Simmons did not score in 16 minutes in UNT's loss to Georgetown, but did grab two rebounds. He is averaging 5.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. 

F: Shane Temara (6-9, Sr.) -- Temara enjoyed one of his best performances of the season in UNT's loss to Georgetown, posting a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. The senior went 4-for-7 from 3-point range. He is averaging 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

Scouting UTEP: The Miners have endured a tough start to their season. Former UTEP coach Tim Floyd abruptly announced his retirement after a loss to Lamar on Nov. 27. Phil Johnson took over on an interim basis and guided the Miners on a four-game winning streak that included a win over Washington State. That run ended with a loss to North Dakota State in UTEP's last outing. The Miners have two terrific wing players in UNT graduate transfer Keith Frazier and Omega Harris. Fraizer is averaging 14.6 points per game, while Harris is adding 12.6 points per game. 

What you need to know: UNT is off to a terrific start in its first season under Grant McCasland and can match its win total from all of last season by knocking off UTEP in its Conference USA opener.

The game is an intriguing one for a host of reasons other than it being UNT's first league game.

The Mean Green have played well early in the season and appear poised to move up after finishing dead last in the C-USA standings last year. The question is how far can UNT rise?

If it's going to be a significant jump, UNT is going to have to win tough games. A showdown with UTEP on the road certainly qualifies. The Miners are playing pretty well since Tim Floyd's departure and have won four of their last five.

Here is the story that will appear in tomorrow's paper about UNT trying to build on a solid nonconference season:

The fact Frazier is playing for UTEP is another intriguing aspect of the game. Frazier came to UNT from SMU to play his senior season, but only was on the floor for four games. He transferred to UTEP for his final season.

All of UNT's veteran players know Frazier and spent a lot of time with him last year. 

"We are familiar with him and know how potent he can be offensively, but there is no more juice to the game because of it," UNT coach Grant McCasland said.

Frazier was always popular among UNT's players. It might not make much of a difference to the Mean Green that Frazier is playing for the Miners.

I just don't buy for a second that Frazier won't be motivated to play against UNT. 

FEATURED PHOTO: Former North Texas guard Keith Frazier goes up for a layup in a game against Southeastern Louisiana at the Super Pit last season. Frazier left UNT after the season and landed at UTEP as a graduate transfer. UNT will play the Miners on Thursday night.