Smart scores 22, North Texas holds on to beat UTSA, 72-71

The North Texas Mean Green, leading by eight points with seven minutes remaining, made just enough defensive plays to hold on for a dramatic, 72-71 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners Saturday night.

Playing at home in the Convocation Center, UTSA had a couple of chances to take the lead in the last 12 seconds but came up empty on two possessions.

First, North Texas center Shane Temara, shown in the video above, blocked a shot by UTSA’s Byron Frohnen.

On the other end, the Mean Green missed a free throw, which gave UTSA one last opportunity.

Roadrunners point guard Giovanni De Nicolao rushed it up court on the left side, angled to his right and stretched out to attempt a sweeping layup, which skipped off the front of the rim.

Nick Allen had a chance to follow it, but his tap was too strong, and it went over the goal.

The buzzer sounded as the teams battled for possession under the basket (see video below).

Guard Roosevelt Smart led North Texas with 22 points. Ryan Woolridge scored 18 points and A.J. Lawson added 14.

The victory gave North Texas (9-6, 2-0) a sweep of two road games — both victories by one point — to start the Conference USA phase of its schedule.

The Mean Green also dealt the Roadrunners (8-7, 1-1) their first loss at home this year after 6-0 start.

Freshmen guards Keaton Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson scored 17 points apiece for UTSA.

“We had a bad stretch to start the second half,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “Down the stretch, we did some things right, to give ourselves a chance after being down.

“Came out of a couple of timeouts with the right mindset defensively and offensively. Cut into that lead. Got a steal. Got a run out.

“Just didn’t seal it.

“(We) told our guys, ‘That’s the way conference games go. You know, the teams that finish in the top two or three spots find a way to win all those games. The teams that finish at the bottom lose all those games.”

The details

With UTSA playing well and gaining momentum at the outset, North Texas put a stop to it, getting back into the game in the closing minutes of the first half.

The Mean Green continued to battle through the first 13 minutes after intermission. Three times in that span, the visitors opened leads of eight points.

The Roadrunners rallied with a 12-4 run to tie the game, 70-70. In retaliation, the Mean Green called on A.J. Lawson to hit a jumper for what would be the deciding basket with 1:02 remaining.

Jhivvan Jackson hit a free throw for UTSA to pull the Roadrunners to within one, but the Roadrunners would be denied on their final two possessions.

Once, Temara got the block against Frohnen. On the last play, UTSA’s Giovanni De Nicolao drove and missed a contested layup.

A tip by Nick Allen was long as the buzzer sounded.

First half highlights

Freshman Keaton Wallace led the UTSA offense in the first half.

Playing in front of the home fans, the 6-foot-3 lefty scored 11 points and hit three 3-point shots before intermission.

The Roadrunners held the Mean Green to 35 percent shooting and, at one time, led 38-25.

Leading by 13 points with 4:41 left, UTSA suffered a defensive letdown.

North Texas closed with a 9-3 run, including this buzzer-beating, bank shot by Smart over Kendell Ramlal.

Second half

The Mean Green continued to play well after halftime. UTSA would make a run on the visiting team, but North Texas would counter with a run of its own.

In the video above, freshman center Zachary Simmons dunks in front of his appreciative teammates on the Mean Green bench.

The play, set up by a Simmons steal on the other end, gave North Texas an eight-point lead (64-56) with 9:16 remaining.

UTSA made some plays down the stretch. Just not enough. In the video above, De Nicolao misses a shot on a drive but Austin Karrer is trailing the play, cleaning up with a stick-back.