The UTSA pep band helped North Texas win this game.
Hear me out: To begin with, the band picked on Shane Temara in the first half, with their “Shane sucks” chant. It is an old college basketball fan game where the band/student section picks on a player all game for no particular reason.
It was mostly harmless until Shane blocked the go-ahead attempt late in the game to help seal the win. Allante Holston missed the one-and-one and then UTSA had two more attempts. The first went high off the glass and then out and the Runners tried a tip in that fell short.
Shane Temara did not have the greatest game by his own measure, but was clutch in spots, grabbing some rebounds and playing defense while adding some offense. He had 8 points on 3/8 shooting including 2/4 from three.
One of the UTSA event timeout gimmicks is having a piñata made in the logo of the opposition. After the contestant broke the piñata they pep band got it and played around with it. It looked like they were rooting for NT rather than what they likely intended: a kind of silly trophy?
In any case, back to the game:
The scoring star, of course, was Roosevelt Smart who went for 22. He single-handedly kept North Texas close in the first half by drawing fouls. For the game he shot 9/10 from the line. In the second half he turned it on from deep and helped NT erase the halftime deficit and pull ahead. AJ Lawson’s dribble-drive game gave NT enough offense to keep the lead and he also contributed the game winner.
NT had a 66-58 lead at the 7:30 mark after Ryan Woolridge hit a running push shot from the right side. UTSA would storm back and tie the game at 70 with 1:20 left.
The Mean Green have now won the opening two road games in the league for the first time since 1991 after going 2-0 this week at UTEP and now at UTSA. Both UT system squads are solid opponents and gave North Texas all they could handle.
There was so much here to like. The UTSA crowd was solid on a Saturday night at the end of the year even with the game on local TV. The Runners got out to a big 10 point lead and this was the kind of game that could have easily gotten away early. Instead, the Mean Green battled through the early missteps and keep things close.
McCasland was able to find some lineups that could defend UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace. He opted for Michael Miller for 2 big minutes that saw Miller harass Wallace into tough jump shots that helped stem the tide a bit.
Early in the second NT ran some nice sets for Smart to pop him for back-to-back threes from the top of the key. Temara’s minutes were managed well, also, as he had some foul trouble to deal with early.
Ryan Woolridge controlled the game and found some range in the second half that pushed the lead out. He is always shaded for the drive and if he can knock down one or two of those open threes a game, he will be ridiculous.
This league is still top-heavy, and the Marshalls of the world look really good right now, but NT can hang around in the middle-to-upper tier if they play as hard and as determined as they did tonight. Winning these kinds of tough road games are the key to doing something really special.
NT will now test themselves in the friendly confines of the Super Pit against Charlotte and ODU next week.