Men's Basketball

UT Arlington men stop rally, roll past North Texas 90-67

UTA’s Kevin Hervey, left, and Jorge Bilbao celebrate a basket with a chest bump.
UTA’s Kevin Hervey, left, and Jorge Bilbao celebrate a basket with a chest bump. Star-Telegram

UT Arlington withstood a North Texas run late in the first half and pulled away in the second half to dispatch the Mean Green 90-67 in a revival of a Metroplex rivalry Thursday night at the College Park Center.

Kevin Hervey scored 20 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in recording his fifth straight double-double, and Erick Neal dished out a career-high nine assists in UTA’s third straight win over North Texas after a two-year hiatus in the rivalry.

“Both of these guys played exactly the way I needed them to in the second half,” coach Scott Cross said. “It was a beautiful thing to watch.”

Although the Mavericks won by 23, it felt much closer than the score indicated because of a stretch in the first half where the Mean Green made eight straight shots and cut the UTA lead from 16 to nothing.

But no matter what North Texas threw UTA’s way, the Mavericks (6-2) responded every time. When North Texas (2-5) tied it at 30, Hervey regained the lead. And when the Mean Green trailed 41-40, the Mavericks went on a 11-2 run to close out the half and give themselves breathing room.

“It’s a sign of a great team to be able to withstand a run like that and then go on another run of our own and pull out a 23-point win,” Cross said. “It’s pretty impressive.”

The Mavericks outrebounded the Mean Green 47-29 and won the second-chance points battle 16-8, but more importantly, they found their offensive groove again.

After shooting just 17 percent on 3-pointers in Tuesday’s overtime loss to Texas, the Mavericks were 9 of 18 from beyond the arc in their most efficient long-range performance of the year.

They shot 53 percent from the field and got 34 points off the bench, primarily from Kennedy Eubanks (11 points) and Kaelon Wilson (13 points).

It certainly helped overcome 20 turnovers, their most all season. But in a 23-point victory on Cross’ birthday, that’s not on the concern list.

“I texted him earlier ‘happy birthday’, and he said ‘yeah, a win would be nice,’ ” Neal said. “So we came out with a lot of energy to give him a win.”

North Texas overcame a 22-6 deficit by shooting 57 percent in the first half. Led by J-Mychal Reese, the Mean Green closed out the half by making nine of their last 11 shots.

But the shots went awry in the second half, and UNT only converted 33.3 percent from the field as the game wore down. The Mean Green was never able to grab the lead despite the late first-half tie.

That’s because the Mavericks slowly pulled away behind a ball-sharing mentality in the second half, what they didn’t have in Tuesday’s loss. Five Mavericks finished with double-digits in scoring.

“Offensively, this was one of our better games. And it’s all because these guys did exactly what I needed them to in the second half,” Cross said. “I need Hervey to be a scorer, but score after he moves the ball around one time.”

North Texas (2-5) – Combs 3-9 3-6 9, Fuller 1-1 0-4 2, Brown 3-5 0-1 8, Johnson 6-13 3-3 16, Reese 6-12 3-8 16, Ward 4-8 0-1 10, White-Pittman 0-1 0-0 0, Holston 0-1 0-0 0, Katenda 1-4 0-0 2, Brice Jr. 2-4 0-4 4, Gross 0-0 0-0 0, Eaglin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-58 9-27 67.

UT Arlington (6-2) – Hervey 8-14 3-5 20, Bilbao 3-8 2-2 8, Neal 1-3 4-5 6, Charles 4-9 0-0 11, Jones 4-7 2-2 11, Eubanks 4-4 0-2 11, Hawkins 0-0 0-0 0, Wilson 5-10 3-6 13, Austin 0-0 0-0 0, Harris 1-1 0-0 2, Clarke 0-1 0-0 0, Pallas 1-2 0-0 2, Pope 1-1 3-5 6. Totals 32-60 17-27 90.

Halftime—UT Arlington 52-42. 3-Point Goals—North Texas 6-17 (Brown 2-3, Ward 2-4, Reese 1-3, Johnson 1-7), Texas-Arlington 9-18 (Eubanks 3-3, Charles 3-7, Pope 1-1, Hervey 1-2, Jones 1-3, Wilson 0-1, Neal 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—North Texas 29 (Combs 8), Texas-Arlington 47 (Hervey 15). Assists—North Texas 15 (Brown 5), UT Arlington 25 (Neal 9). Total Fouls—North Texas 19, Texas-Arlington 22. A—6,107.

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