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Basketball: Smart's 29 lifts Mean Green past UTEP

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EL PASO -- Sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart hit multiple clutch shots in the second half to lead North Texas to a comeback win on the road at UTEP, 63-62, Thursday night in the Conference USA opener at the Don Haskins Center. 

"I am really proud of our team tonight," head coach Grant McCasland said. "We found a way to win and do something no other North Texas team has done. What can you say about Roosevelt Smart, he made some clutch plays down the stretch." 

Smart finished with a game-high 29 points off 9-for-13 from the field. Smart also went 8-for-10 from the free throw line and grabbed six rebounds. Senior Shane Temara added 14 points off four three-pointers. Sophomore point guard Ryan Woolridge was held to seven points, five rebounds and three assists in 40 minutes. 

Mean Green (8-6, 1-0 C-USA) starters accounted for 57 of the 63 points, including 43 from Smart and Temara. North Texas was outscored 37-to-6 in bench points. 

It took 65 years for the Mean Green to earn their third win against the Miners snapping a seven-game losing streak overall. North Texas picks up its first road win in El Paso for the first-time in Conference USA play. It is only the third Texas team to defeat UTEP on the road in league play (29-3). 

In the second half, North Texas cut the UTEP advantage to three points after a layup plus the foul from Smart. The Mean Green tied the game at 36-36 after a three-pointer from junior Jorden Duffy with 13:49 remaining. 

With 7:56 left, North Texas held its largest lead of the game at 48-42 of a three-pointer in the corner by Woolridge. The Miners got within two points at 48-46 when interim head coach Phil Johnson was ejected from the game. Smart calmly hit 3-of-4 free throws to push the lead back to 51-46. 

UTEP tied the game after a 5-0 run off a jumper from Matt Willms at the 4:07 mark. Smart answered six seconds later with a clutch three-pointer to pull ahead 54-51. Keith Frazier hit his first three-pointer of the game with 2:25 remaining to tie the game at 56-56. 

Smart came back again with a three-pointer to give North Texas a 59-56 lead. With 23 seconds left, Smart hit a jumper to push the lead to five points. 

Frazier hit back-to-back three-pointers to keep things close and after a turnover by Woolridge, Paul Thomas had a potential game-winning three-pointer miss as time expired. 

North Texas was tied in the first half at 20-20 but UTEP finished the half on a 10-4 run. Temara led all scorers with nine points off 3-for-5 shooting from the three-point line. Smart added seven points off 3-for-6 shooting. 

The Mean Green quickly took a 6-2 lead capped by a put-back layup from freshman Zachary Simmons. UTEP would answer with a 12-4 burst to take a 14-10 lead off a bucket plus the foul from Willms. 

North Texas struggled offensively in the first half only shooting 36 percent off 9-of-25 from the field. The Miners outscored the Mean Green 15-to-1 in bench points. 

The Mean Green had a stretch of six minutes late in the half without a field goal before a three-pointer by Temara snapped it with 1:17 remaining. UTEP's Evan Gilyard made a layup with three seconds left to give UTEP a 30-24 halftime lead. 

Up Next
North Texas continues Conference USA play on Saturday, Dec. 30, on the road at UT San Antonio at 7 p.m.