North Texas (14-8, 8-1 Conference USA) catches its eighth straight conference win after defeating UTEP (12-9, 3-5 C-USA) 67-57. This is the Mean Green’s first win at home against the Miners since 1952.
Junior forward Zachary Simmons got things going for North Texas as he recorded 14 points in the first half, including an alley-oop feed from junior guard Javion Hamlet that would give the team an 11-point lead.
“We were going inside and got Bryson [Williams] in foul trouble in the first half,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “Zach [Simmons] was five from five at one point and we were really able to play inside out. We missed some shots early … but we went right into Zach [Simmons] and he delivered.”
Coming out of the half with a 38-27 lead, North Texas continued to apply defensive pressure with its other two forwards Thomas Bell and graduate senior Deng Geu. Both players combined for 14 points in the second half.
After an 11 point, 15 rebound display against Texas-San Antonio, Bell continued to make plays for the Mean Green. He sent the crowd to its feet several times. The first being a posterized alley-oop finish over UTEP’s Nigel Hawkins late in the first half. The other being a block in the second half.
“I’ve just been trying to attack the right spots and just taking my time when I get the chance, and I’m just making the most of the opportunity,” Bell said. “Coach [McCasland] is just giving me the freedom to and I just try to be aggressive whenever I can.”
After a 3-pointer and layup by Bell, North Texas grabbed hold of a 52-36 lead, its largest of the game.
However, the Miners found a way back into the game, cutting the deficit to five with 3:35 remaining. After a couple missed shots from both teams, Hamlet was able to find junior guard James Reese in the left corner for a heavily contested 3-point shot to give North Texas a 61-53 lead.
Reese finished with nine points and hauled in a team-leading six rebounds.
UTEP tried to answer back in time to make the game winnable, but the Mean Green were able to hit six free throws in a row to secure their second straight victory over their in-state rival.
Hamlet finished the game with 14 points, five assists and no turnovers. This is his third consecutive game with zero turnovers. For the team, it had six turnovers. This is the third straight game where the team turned it over less than 10 times.
Redshirt sophomore guard Umoja Gibson entered this game as the team’s leading scorer and finished with six points on 0-for-9 shooting.
“Everybody is a threat on this team,” Geu said. “It was just so balanced and everybody contributed and played a part in this win … it’s such a big one and a good way to end the week.”
UP NEXT: North Texas will have a week off before traveling to Houston on Saturday, Feb. 1 to play Rice (9-13, 1-8 C-USA) at 2 p.m. The Mean Green beat the Owls this past Monday 79-59.
Featured Image: Junior James Reese prepares to throw a pass to a Mean Green teammate against UTEP on Jan. 25, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas