EL PASO, Texas – Tae Hardy (18 points, six rebounds), Shamar Givance (16 points, two steals), Ze’Rik Onyema (14 points, four boards) and Calvin Solomon (12 points, four assists, three rebounds) all had quality nights and UTEP nailed a season-high 78.3 percent (25-32) at the charity stripe, but second-place North Texas held off the Miners in overtime, 80-72.
It was a wild game with nine ties and nine lead changes. That included the Miners (12-15, 5-11 C-USA tying the tilt with 4.7 seconds left after Solomon cleaned up Otis Frazier III’s (five points, six rebounds) intentional miss on a second free throw attempt with a lay-up to send it to a UTEP regular-season record-setting fifth OT of the campaign with the contest knotted at 63.
The Mean Green (23-5, 14-3 C-USA) built a seven-point lead in OT (73-66, 1:29 OT). The Miners whittled it to as few as three (73-70, 55 seconds OT) before UNT staved off the rally.
UTEP connected on 42.3 percent from the floor and recorded 14 offensive rebounds to secure a 19-5 advantage in second-chance points. It also forced 17 turnovers that resulted in 20 points, but the visitors had a strong shooting night to survive. UNT connected on 54.2 percent (26-48), including 68.8 percent (11-16) in the second half and 83.3 percent (5-6) in OT. UTEP was 3-15 (20 percent) in the extra period.
The Miners led for nearly double the amount (25:43-13:02) of North Texas, including being up by 11 (48-37) with 10:20 to play before UNT rallied to regain the lead. It was back-and-forth down the stretch before Frazier III and Solomon teamed up for the wild play late in regulation.
North Texas was led by Tylor Perry’s 20-point effort while Kai Huntsberry added 19 points.
“It was kind of a wild and crazy game,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “We had two tough teams competing that value the same things. When that happens it sometimes looks ugly, but there’s a lot of beauty in that too. We’re fighting for that inch, and we’ve been fighting for it all year.
“We made our run until about the eight-minute mark of the second half when they hit some big shots,” Golding said. “I thought they were the more aggressive team down the stretch, and we just ran out of juice and ran out of bodies. We competed, you just have to give them (North Texas) credit.”
It was an energetic start for UTEP, with Hardy taking a charge on UNT’s first possession. Onyema followed with the old-fashioned 3-point play to get the Miners on the board first. The Mean Green took almost three minutes to score and the game was tied at five heading to the first media timeout.
The Miners ripped off six straight out of the break to lead by six (11-5, 14:03 1H). It started innocently enough with a free throw from Onyema. After forcing a turnover, Givance stopped on the dime to splash home a trey. UTEP harassed UNT into another miscue, with Solomon converting at the other end on a jumper.
The Mean Green struck back with five consecutive points to get within one, but Givance halted the sequence with a pair of tosses at the charity stripe to make it a three-point game (13-10). UNT struck back with seven in a row before four straight free throws by the Miners (two from Hardy, two from Solomon) tied the tilt.
The visitors countered with a 6-0 streak, but Jamari Sibley ended that by sinking a pair of free throws. UNT was out by six again (25-19) before Hardy nailed a midrange jumper, which was UTEP’s first field goal in 10 minutes.
After UNT stretched the margin to eight (30-22, 2:13 1H), the Miners ripped off the final seven points in the stanza to cut the deficit to one heading into halftime. Frazier III initiated it with a lay-up through traffic, which was followed by a triple from Hardy. UTEP then called timeout, and Hardy raced up the court on the designed play for a fadeaway jumper on the right wing to cut the margin to one (30-29).
Solomon then appeared to come up with a steal and buzzer-beating jumper. It was ruled that he was out of bounds when contacting the ball on the steal so the play was wiped out, keeping the Miners down one (30-29) at the break.
UTEP surged out of the gates on an 13-2 run to start the second half, including an offensive rebound and putback for the And-1 by Kevin Kalu and a dunk by Sibley, to put the Orange and Blue up 10 (42-32, 13:19 2H). That included a 9-0 run, with baskets across the board from five different players.
Frazier III had started that 13-2 surge with a layup to afford the Miners their first lead since 11:46 to play in the opening stanza. After a bucket from the visitors, Kalu showed off his strength with the offensive board and score for the hoop and harm. Solomon followed with two free throws before the dunk from Sibley. Givance then capped the sequence with a long fadeaway.
After a mini 5-1 push from UNT to get within six, Onyema was dared to shoot a three and he buried it. Hardy then came up with a steal and coast-to-coast score to afford UTEP an 11-point cushion (48-37, 10:20 2H). The Mean Green punched back with a 10-0 run, whittling the Orange and Blue’s differential down to one (48-47, 6:19 2H).
A huge old-fashioned play from Hardy stopped the surge, with a beautiful find from Solomon. North Texas scored on the ensuing possession, resulting in a two-point tilt (51-49, 5:32), but Onyema’s driving lay-up nudged the margin to four.
UNT answered with a score immediately, but Onyema drove for the hoop and harm, reinstating a five-point advantage (56-51, 4:11 2H). Much to the chagrin of the Miner faithful, UNT hit a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock and get back within two (56-54). After a UTEP turnover, the Mean Green were fouled and made both to tie the contest at 56.
The Miners pulled back ahead with a pair of free throws from Hardy before a friendly bounce for Rubin Jones knotted the score at 58 with the shot clock winding down. Onyema went 1-2 at the charity stripe after a foul, putting UTEP up one as the clock wound down to a minute left. UNT regained the edge following a pair of tosses by Perry.
After a missed shot, UTEP came up the offensive board and Givance found Solomon for the alley-oop to send the Miners back up by one (61-60, 36.9 seconds left). It was short lived, with a crossover from Perry setting up his trey that was pure to lift UNT back into the lead at 63-61 with 18.7 seconds remaining.
UTEP misfired on a 3-pointer. Frazier III came up with the rebound and was fouled with 4.7 seconds remaining in regulation. He missed the first free throw. He intentionally misfired on the second one and Solomon somehow came up with the rebound and score to send the game to OT.
The Miners led 66-65 about two minutes into OT before a step-back trey from Perry put the Mean Green up two (68-66). After a UTEP turnover, UNT got a dunk to go up four (70-66, 2:13 OT). An offensive foul on Solomon put him out of the game, and the Mean Green took advantage with an old-fashioned 3-point play to lead by seven (73-66, 1:29 OT).
UTEP tallied the next four points to get within three, but UNT held on.
UTEP hits the road for the final time of the regular season to start a two-game swing through the “Sunshine State.” The Miners will play at FIU at 5 p.m. MT/7 p.m. ET Thursday before wrapping up the trip at No. 25 Florida Atlantic at 12 p.m. MT/2 p.m. ET on Feb. 25. Jon Teicher (42nd year) will be on the call for each game on “The Home of UTEP Basketball” 600 ESPN El Paso. Both contests will also stream nationally on ESPN+.