It was a true battle of evenly matched squads to open C-USA play, but North Texas was able to make one more play, and dodged a bullet at the buzzer to knock off UTEP 63-62 Thursday night.
Roosevelt Smart scored a game high 29 points, helping North Texas shoot 48.1 percent from the field in the second half and improve to 8-6 overall.
Keith Frazier came off the bench to score 13 points, Matt Willms returned to the lineup to score 11 points, and grab eight rebounds. UTEP drops to 5-8 overall, losing for the first time in 12 games against C-USA Texas opponents.
UTEP started 6-for-9 from the field, holding a small 16-12 lead with 11:58 left in the opening half, but a 6-0 North Texas run during a nearly three minute UTEP scoring drought gave the Mean Green an 18-16 lead after the under 12 minute timeout.
The lead changed hands six times in the first half, and a six minute-plus North Texas scoring drought helped UTEP take a 30-24 halftime lead.
North Texas finished the half 1-for-7 from the field, while UTEP went 3-for-9 in the same stretch and were unable to stretch their lead before the break.
Things remained close well into the second half, as a monster dunk by Roosevelt Smart on a breakaway tied things at 40 at the 11:58 mark of the second half.
Another 6-0 North Texas run was fueled by four UTEP turnovers in a four minute span, which attributed to a nearly three minute UTEP scoring drought to give North Texas the lead.
Three pointers from Shane Temara, and Ryan Woolridge broke a 42-all tie and made it 48-42 Mean Green with 7:56 left in the game.
UTEP would score four straight, but Phil Johnson would argue the shot clock during a hustle sequence on the defensive end, and would be tossed. After the free throws, UNT led 51-46, and the Miners were entering the danger zone with under seven minutes left.
But the Mean Green would go scoreless for another three minutes, and a 3-pointer from Evan Gilyard cut the lead to 51-49 with under five minutes left to play. Matt Willms tied things up at 51 with a layup, but Smart changed the lead with a 3-pointer on the ensuing end with just under four minutes left.
UTEP trailed 56-53, when former Mean Green member Keith Frazier tied it up with a 3-pointer from the left wing, but Smart would answer with a corner three to break the tie as things went into the final two minutes.
Frazier brought the Miners back from the dead for a second time with a 3-pointer. This time Frazier hit a deep 3-pointer from the wing to trim the lead to 61-59 with 14.2 seconds left, then Frazier hit another 3-pointer with three seconds left after a pair of North Texas free throws to make to 63-62.
On the ensuing in bound play, Paul Thomas picked up a loose ball off a bad in bound pass, but missed the final look of the game wide left.
The final six minutes UTEP struggled to defend, and close out with rebounds despite winning the battle of the boards 35-32. UTEP had just nine assists, and 10 total turnovers, and shot 45.5 percent from the field in the end.
UTEP went 5-for-17 from long distance, while North Texas went 9-for-21 from deep as Temara hit four 3-pointers to score 14 points for the Mean Green.
Rice visits the Don Saturday as C-USA play gets underway.