DENTON, Texas -- North Texas entered Saturday as winners of 19 of their previous 21, as well as votes in each of the major polls, and it utilized its home-court advantage to steal the lead in the final minute from Southern Miss, 65-62.
The Golden Eagles, playing their sixth consecutive road game since Dec. 11, took a 62-61 lead at 3:22 on Cortez Edwards' short baseline jumper. It would be their final points of the night, as North Texas' Michael Miller drove in for a layup with 15 seconds left to regain the lead. Tyree Griffin's twisting shot outside the paint missed, and after two more Mean Green free-throws, Leonard Harper-Baker's half-court shot missed the rim by less than a foot.
"The bottomline is that going into this three-game (conference) stretch, we would have really liked to get one of them," head coach Doc Sadler said. "The last two were about as good as we could have played. You have to give North Texas (15-1, 3-0 C-USA) credit. They've got a nice basketball team and made a play in the last possession of the game. I'm really excited about our team. I thought they played hard. North Texas was averaging 80 points a game, and we held them to 65 in their home arena."
Southern Miss led 19-13 at the 11:15 mark, but North Texas closed the half on a 15-7 run to take a 36-30 lead into the locker room.
The Golden Eagles scored the first five points of the second half, but North Texas made its own 10-0 run that forced a Southern Miss timeout with 15:11 left, down 46-35. The Black and Gold chiseled away to get within three points a few times, then 59-58 at 5:43.
"The way we played today, if we do that the next 15 ballgames, we are gonna be happy a lot," Sadler said. "You're never happy when you lose, but North Texas is playing as well as anyone in our league, and we had a chance to win it. We're struggling at the free-throw line, and can't give those points up and expect to win a one or two point ballgame.
"It's not because of a lack of effort. Our guys gave great effort on the offensive rebounding and took care of the ball with 11 turnovers on the road. We couldn't have done much better in those facets today."
Southern Miss (8-7, 0-3 C-USA) returns home Thursday night at 7 p.m. CT to face Middle Tennessee.