Down at halftime, UNT went on an 17-1 run in the second half to come out on top over UTA, 63-61, on Saturday at the Super Pit.
UTA (3-7) came out efficient from the floor, knocking down 6 of 11 from the field to jump out to an early 15-12 lead.
“UTA was the tougher team coming out,” Zach Simmons said. “The whole first half they were bullying us on the court, and that’s something we don’t allow.”
UNT’s (10-1) leading scorer Ryan Woolridge took matters into his own hands, as the junior guard scored 12 points to cap off a 8-0 run to put the Mean Green up 23-20 with 7:53 left in the first half.
The Mavs were able to stay within reach as Brian Warren sizzled from deep, hitting 3 3-pointers.
UTA then went on a 10-0 run over the final 3:21 to head into halftime with a 36-31 lead.
“We just have to continue to trust the process,” Mavs head coach Chris Ogden said in a press release. “That’s what I told our guys in the locker room after the game. We fought hard tonight; we played with passion; we were aggressive and dove after loose balls. It’s a tough way to learn, but we’ll get there. We’re paying the price now, but it’s going to be worth it as these moments will build character and give us plenty to learn from moving forward.”
Coming out of the break, Woolridge suffered an ankle injury and exited the game with 18:21 remaining.
UTA capitalized on Woolridge’s absence and continued to fire from beyond the arc, hitting 9 as a team to push its lead 54-42.
“I knew the only way to put pressure on them was to attack,” Michael Miller said.
The senior guard started to find his rhythm in the second half and scored a transition floater to cut the lead to 8.
The Mavs struggled to get a bucket for nearly four minutes as UNT crawled its way back into the game with a 13-1 run over 4:36 to tie the game 55-55.
With a costly UTA turnover, the Mean Green scored on back-to-back possessions and sealed Saturday’s DFW showdown.
“I told our team from the beginning, our strength is our depth,” head coach Grant McCasland commented.
Due to limited playing time in the second-half, Woolridge finished with 14 points (12 in first half). Miller added a game-high 17 points and Simmons had eight points and 10 rebounds.
“Ultimately, Mike being a senior leader – just refused to lose,” McCasland said.
Warren led UTA with 15 points and David Azore chipped in 11 points and dished out six assists.
UNT dominated the paint, outscoring the Mavs 38-16 down low.
The Mean Green look to continue their success as they travel to New Mexico to take on the Lobos on Tuesday at 8 p.m.
UTA makes a trip up to the northwest to battle No. 1 ranked Gonzaga on Tuesday at 8 p.m.