Thursday night’s meeting at the Super Pit in Denton set a matchup between a UTEP team continuing to battle for a top-four finish in Conference USA -- and first-round bye in the conference tournament -- and a North Texas team hoping for a top-12 finish to just be eligible for the tournament.
Conference records became irrelevant as the Mean Green were feeling it from three and outrunning the Miners in transition through most of the contest, but UTEP used a 2nd-half surge to send the teams into overtime and best UNT 77-71.
Paul Thomas led the Miners in points (23), rebounds (14), and assists (four) on his way to another double-double. Dominic Artis scored 19 (five rebounds), Omega Harris added 13 points, and Matt Willms put up 11 (seven rebounds).
Led by Derail Green’s 21 points off a 7-of-11 performance from three, UNT also had four players score in double figures. Ryan Woolridge had a near triple-double (15 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists), Shane Temara scored 15 (six rebounds), and AJ Lawson added 12 points (eight rebounds).
After the teams spent the 1st half exchanging 13 lead changes and tying three times, the Mean Green turned a 29-28 halftime lead into a game-high, 10-point advantage 5:25 into the 2nd.
The Miners responded to the 44-34 deficit by going on a 9-0 run that made it a one-point game with 11:13 on the clock, but North Texas was relentless in its refusal to allow the game’s 14th lead change.
The Mean Green answered every UTEP attempt to tie or take another lead as UNT’s advantage varied between one and six points through the next 8:29.
With the Miners trailing 62-59 as the clock read 2:20, though, Dominic Artis hit a 3-ball to tie the game for the first time since 4:49 in the 1st.
After the ensuing possession saw UNT respond with another 3-pointer to make it 65-62, Paul Thomas grabbed an offensive rebound, put in a layup, and completed an and-1 for the 65-all tie that would send the teams into overtime.
UTEP then began OT by scoring the first five points and continuing the regulation-ending momentum created by Thomas.
The Miners got up to an overtime-high lead of six (72-66) with 1:28 on the clock, but North Texas took advantage of two consecutive turnovers by UTEP to cut it to 72-70 within 30 seconds.
Missed one-and-ones by both teams forced the Mean Green to intentionally foul, and Dominic Artis sealed the win going 5-of-6 from the charity stripe.