Smart leads men’s basketball to bounce-back win in conference opener

Smart leads men’s basketball to bounce-back win in conference opener

Smart leads men’s basketball to bounce-back win in conference opener
December 28
23:17 2017

A week ago, sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart was coming off of his worst game in his brief career with the Mean Green. Smart went 3-of-18 from the field and 1-of-13 from his beloved 3-point land in a North Texas loss to Georgetown University.

The performance lingered over his head during the team’s brief break for Christmas, but eventually it only turned to motivation. His coach, Grant McCasland, said Smart was the first one in the gym when it opened up for the team to return.

Thursday night, he and the Mean Green bounced back well in their first Conference USA game of the year against the University of Texas at El Paso. Smart went for 29 points and North Texas defeated the Miners 63-62 in El Paso.

“I was reminiscing over that game all break,” Smart said. “So to come out here and have a big game tonight, it made me forget about the Georgetown game.”

Smart had six boards to go along with his 29 points on 9-of-13 shooting and 8-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. The highlight of his 29 came on this transition dunk over a UTEP defender. After the game he said it was the best dunk of his life.

In the first half, though, the Mean Green offense only mustered 24 points and trailed UTEP 30-24. In the second half, the same shots started going in for North Texas and UTEP started pressing on both sides as a result.

“I think our guys just had to get some of that first conference game juice out of us,” McCasland said. “I felt like we got great looks [in the first half], we just needed to settle in and once we came out in the second half, you could tell the same plays were made but more physically.”

The rebounding numbers were even between the two teams but the points in the paint favored the Miners 30-18 as a lot of their offense was predicated on the post up game.

The physical play inside led to 18 free throws for North Texas, but it only converted 10 of the shots from the charity stripe.

“Getting to the free throw line was huge in the second half,” McCasland said. “We didn’t make what we needed to and struggled there, but Rose making eight of 10 from there really was the difference in the game.”

The most startling statistic from the game was the 37-6 edge UTEP had over North Texas in bench points. Former North Texas guard Keith Frazier scored 13 points, all in the second half against his former team for the Miners off the bench.

Senior forward Shane Temara continued his impressive shooting and play overall with 14 points and four rebounds with four of his five buckets coming from 3-point land.

The team as a whole went 9-of-21 from three in the win.

“Ryan, A.J., and the rest of those guys do a great job of penetrating and drawing two and all we have to do is step up and make shots,” Smart said. “Shane [and I] made shots tonight and that’s what it was.”

The game went back and forth with seven lead changes and eight ties, and UTEP had a shot to win it at the buzzer after sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge made an errand inbounds pass.

Instead, the Mean Green won their conference opener and are now 4-1 in games decided by five or less points.

“I was really thrilled with the way guys responded in the second half,” McCasland said. “We have to finish the game better, but I’m really proud of the way our guys competed and found a way to win.”

Featured image: Sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart shots in a game against Indiana State University on December 6. Madison Gore

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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