UNT hoops Q&A with Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review, which covers Creighton

We are fortunate today to have Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review with us to talk about Sunday’s UNT-Creighton game. The website is one that covers Creighton sports. We typically only run Q&As on during football season, but this is a high-profile game for UNT, and Patrick offered to trade. Here is his take on Sunday’s game

1. UNT faced Creighton a couple of years ago. How has the team changed since then?

A lot has changed. Most of the nation should know about Doug McDermott’s senior campaign last season winning about every college hoops award out there. Along with McDermott’s departure, the Bluejays lost three other 3-4 year starters leaving only Austin Chatman as the lone returning starter. A huge percentage of points, three-point shooting and several other categories needed to be replaced heading into this season.

Surrounding Chatman are a lot of veteran players that played different roles the past few seasons and are now tasked to be starters and play different roles. That is probably the biggest adjustment is for veteran players to take on those new roles which has caused the non-conference portion of the schedule to have some inconsistent play.

2. Has Austin Chatman talked about coming home to play?

Chatman has had a stellar career at Creighton being a three year starter and is carrying the team on his shoulders this season. He has worked on being more vocal and being the leader that the Bluejays need to be successful this season. It was his leadership that brought Creighton back from an 18 point deficit in the second half against a ranked Oklahoma team. While he has not talked much about coming home to play in Texas, we are pretty sure that he is excited to return home to play. It was also the goal of the Creighton coaches to have a game in Texas because of a few different players from Texas on the team.

3. UNT plays a zone. How effective has Creighton been against zones this year?

The Bluejays have struggled a bit against the zone. Tulsa played a heavy matchup zone that really flustered Creighton in their first true road game of the season. They struggled shooting against that zone and could not get it inside enough to get the zone to sag off and give shooters more room. When the shots are not going down, Creighton struggles. In most games this season, the Bluejays have gone through long scoreless stretches that keeps opponents within reach.
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4. Does Creighton have the outside shooters to take advantage of a zone?

Creighton was spoiled last season with McDermott, Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat who could all fill it up from the outside with a supporting cast that got hot with them. However, this season, the Bluejays have struggled from the arc during stretches and it is finding the right player to get hot at the right time.

Toby Hegner has had some success from three, Devin Brooks is hot or cold, and as of this week, James Milliken has been suspended indefinitely. However, Isaiah Zierden and Chatman have been pretty consistent from behind the arc and if you leave Zierden open in the corner for a three, you can pretty much know it is going in. They have the shooters, just not like they had last season.

5. Talk about Creighton’s top players?

Obviously Chatman is at the top of the list leading the Jays in points per game, assists, and third in rebounding. He has had a couple nights where he was getting close to a triple-double which is rare in Creighton’s history.

Isaiah Zierden is probably the next go-to player. He is second on the team in scoring, but comes off the bench. He can be deadly from three and knows when to take shots. His basketball IQ is really high and he uses that to his advantage when trying to draw a foul from opponents.

From there, the Bluejays have a rotation of players that will be interchangeable during the game as coach McDermott looks for the hot hand. Devin Brooks will play the shooting guard and have some flashy plays at times. James Milliken would have been a shooting option off the bench, but he was suspended earlier this week and his future is up in the air until after the school’s winter break.

Ricky Kreklow, a fifth year transfer from Cal, and Avery Dingman will interchange at the small forward spot while Will Artino, Zach Hanson and Geoffrey Groselle will patrol the middle. Artino is long and has the most experience of the three and has been leaned on down the stretch in games while Hanson has shown some great potential as a bigger body defender down low.

Toby Hegner came into the season off his redshirt season looking to fill the big shoes of Doug McDermott. He has had his ups and downs. While a starter, there have been times that the elder McDermott has chosen to not use Hegner as much in the second half as he could depending on what the first half brings.

6. How do you see this game playing out?

This game is not a slam dunk for the Bluejays as they have struggled on the road this season. They failed to close out against Ole Miss on a neutral court in Florida, had to hang on to win against Middle Tennessee in that same arena and then turned around and got sliced up by Tulsa’s athleticism and failed to keep the Hurricane off the offensive glass in their first true road test of the season.

That all being said, after the loss at home to St. Mary’s last Saturday breaking a 24 game home winning streak and a week of finals, the Bluejays should be ready to play another game. They will have to get past the distraction of guard James Milliken’s indefinite suspension (due to breaking some team rules) and focus on moving forward to get ready for Big East play after this game on Sunday.

Creighton will struggle early, but behind Chatman, the Bluejays will get it together and leave Texas with a win, but it may be closer than those from the outside realize.

Catching up with Caleb Chumley, Creighton Barr

The last time we heard from Caleb Chumley, the Longview Pine Tree standout was something of a mystery man.

The 6-foot-6 quarterback had committed to UNT, but there was always the question of what position he would play in college, if he would ever end up with the Mean Green and what his thoughts were on the whole process.

Chumley showed up on UNT’s mid-term signing list today. I caught up with him a short time later to run through where things stand. I also talked for a few minutes with surprise mid-term signee Creighton Barr, an offensive lineman from Flower Mound Marcus who committed to UNT months ago.

One of the big questions in terms of Chumley was one he quickly addressed when I talked to him today. He expects to play quarterback when he arrives at UNT in January.

“I am coming in as a quarterback,” Chumley said. “I’m positive I can play on the college level.”

Chumley has been preparing for that opportunity by working out and taking a few classes at Kilgore College.

Taking a few early classes at a junior college is a common move for guys who grayshirt. For those of you wondering what that term means exactly, it’s the practice of having a high school player delay enrolling until the semester break so that he counts toward the following year’s class.

The interesting twist — one that I was unaware of — is that Chumley’s older brother Chris is a tight end at Kilgore. He had three touchdown catches last season.

Caleb Chumley used the semester off to recover from a toe injury.

“I am excited about coming in during the midterm break,” Chumley said. “I’m ready to start college and play football again.”

I can also report that Barr is thoroughly enjoying his last few days before enrolling at UNT.

He was hanging out in Florida when he called me back this afternoon.

That is yet another piece of evidence that Barr is a smart kid as we all sit here on a cold and miserable day in the Dallas area. He also graduated early.

Barr said he wanted to get a jump start on his college career, get some extra time to learn UNT’s offense and put himself in position to potentially contribute next season. He also said he thought it would be good for him to get to know his teammates and have some new people to work out with since his high school team has been done for weeks.

I will have more on UNT’s mid-term class in tomorrow’s paper.

And in a side note, Tipa Galea’i, a defensive end UNT showed interest in who I mentioned on the blog yesterday committed to TCU.

UNT announces mid-term signees

Caleb Chumley runs the ball for Pine Tree during the 2012 season. Chumley signed with North Texas this week during the mid-term signing period.

UNT announced its mid-term signees today.

Most of the news of the day has been covered in the paper over the last few weeks and months.

There are a few surprises, though, including …

– Creighton Barr will enroll at mid-term. UNT is losing four key offensive linemen, including guards Cyril Lemon and Mason Y’Barbo. UNT signed a JUCO interior lineman in Brian Ochs. It looks like Barr, a Flower Mound Marcus senior, will get an opportunity to compete for early playing time. UNT recruited him as an interior lineman.

– The other key news item is that only one of the three players who were grayshirt candidates showed up on the mid-term list. Caleb Chumley, a big quarterback out of Longview Pine Tree, signed with UNT, as expected. Chumley was a three-star prospect out of high school who could project at a number of positions, most notably tight end. UNT landed Chumley largely because it would give him a shot as a quarterback. I fully expect him to end up as a tight end at some point. He could end up being a steal.

DeSoto grayshirt defensive linemen candidates Shaq Jackson and Johnavhan Graham are not on UNT’s mid-term list. There are some off-the-field hurdles both will have to clear to play for the Mean Green. I don’t think either will end up at UNT.

Here is the list

JUCO signees

LB Cortney Finney, Trinity Valley CC

S James Gray,  Fort Scott (Kan.) CC

OL Brian Ochs, Butler (Kansas) CC

QB DaMarcus Smith, Butler (Kansas) CC

LB Dakota Smith, Trinity Valley CC

WR Thaddeus Thompson, Scottsdale (Arizona) CC

2014 grayshirt

QB Caleb Chumley, Longview Pine Tree

Mid-term high school

OL Creighton Barr,  Flower Mound Marcus

Financial figures for beer sales at UNT in

North Texas received a significant boost in revenue from beer sales last season at Apogee Stadium. (Denton Record-Chronicle//David Minton)

UNT released the financial figures for beer sales at Apogee Stadium today. The school sold alcohol at the venue for the first time this fall.

In six home games, UNT sold 21,438 units for a total gross revenue of $120,106.83. After expenses, the net revenue was $91,897.78.

The bottom line is that the UNT athletic department received $45,939.89.

That is a pretty significant financial bump from sales at six home games.

The school announced before the season began that it would sell beer at UNT games for the first time.

The hope at the time was that selling beer would be a significant source of income for the UNT athletic department and that it would boost attendance at home games.

“One of the reasons we are doing this is to create new revenue,” UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said when the school announced beer sales in July. “It’s hard to put a number on what it will generate because if the fans come in and buy a beer, they might also buy a hot dog or a hat.”

UNT drew an average of 21,030 fans a game in 2013 and set a record for total attendance of 126,182 in a breakout season that saw the Mean Green finish 9-4 and beat UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

UNT’s per-game attendance average fell to 19,271 fans for six home games last season when the school sold beer at games for the first time. The school drew a total of 115,627 fans for six games when the Mean Green struggled and finished 4-8.

The Mean Green’s schedule also impacted attendance figures. UNT hosted in-state rivals Rice, UTEP and UTSA in 2013. The Mean Green played all three on the road this season, when it’s only home game against a Texas rival was an 11 a.m. showdown with SMU.

Late-night hoops rewind: UNT 78, Langston 65

North Texas freshman forward Jeremy Combs (11) grabs a rebound over Langston sophomore guard Otar Pkhadadze. Combs finished with 25 points for UNT. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

Final: UNT 78, Langston 65

Where UNT stands: UNT crept back over the .500 mark at 5-4

Now what?: UNT will face Creighton on Sunday at the Super Pit.

Star of the day: Jeremy Combs had a monster game with 25 points after moving back into the starting lineup. Combs began the season as a starter, but moved into a reserve role after three games while he adjusted to playing at the college level. He returned to the starting lineup against Langston and isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Jordan Williams also had a big game with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Colin Voss also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Say what?

“That was a big momentum builder. We played three tough games against good teams and got down on ourselves. We came out today and fought hard. We will be ready for Creighton on Sunday.”

– Jordan Williams, UNT guard on the importance of the Mean Green’s win over Langston that broke a three-game losing streak

Our take: UNT really, really needed a win after a brutal three-game road swing and did what it had to to pull out a win over Langston. The Mean Green didn’t exactly inspire a whole lot of confidence while struggling to pull away from an NAIA team on their home floor. This team has a long way to go before it needs to start worrying about style points, though.

UNT will take the win, especially with a game against Creighton coming up on Sunday.

Combs’ performance was encouraging. If UNT is going anywhere this year, it’s going to need the freshman to be an impact player. That’s just what he was against the Lions.

Seeing Voss go for 10 and 10 was also a good sign for UNT. The senior had been in a bit of a funk lately.

 

Chris Cosh, kosher? Some initial thoughts

UNT added Chris Cosh to its staff today. The longtime college assistant will be UNT’s new defensive coordinator.

Dan McCarney talked a little over the last few weeks about what he would look for in a coach to replace John Skladany, who retired at the end of the year.

McCarney talked about finding a coach with experience. He wanted an Xs and Os guy who can make adjustments on game day and put people in the right places to make plays.

Cosh certainly seems to fit that mold.

And he worked at South Florida, just like several other members of UNT’s staff, including McCarney.

Cosh has been a defensive coordinator for 16 years at a host of different schools, most of them playing at big-time schools in big-time conferences.

There is a school of thought out there that UNT needs to get younger and a whole lot more effective in terms of recruiting, especially when it comes to Texas high school players. There has been a call for more assistants with Texas ties.

I get that.

When it comes to a defensive coordinator, I just don’t think that is as big of a concern. If we were talking about a position coach, that would be one thing. Those are the guys on the road trying to sell players on playing for UNT.

Coach Cosh, which has a nice ring to it, will be in charge of putting those players in place to make plays when they get to UNT.

He should fit fine in that regard. I will be curious like everyone else what his philosophy will be. Will we still see the 4-3? Will UNT be more aggressive?

Those are questions that will be answered in the next few days, weeks or whenever myself or someone else gets a chance to chat with Cosh.

He certainly won’t be stepping into an easy situation. UNT is lost its two best defensive players to graduation in linebacker Derek Akunne and cornerback James Jones.

Cosh will also be stepping into a rather large void left by Skladany, a coach who developed a terrific relationship with McCarney over the course of 13 years. UNT’s players loved Skladany, who was pretty adept at football chess.

There is no telling how Cosh will work out, but he’s about what I expected and ridiculously qualified to be a defensive coordinator at a Conference USA school.

It seems like a great move for McCarney and UNT.

A couple of UNT recruiting notes

Euless Trinity defensive lineman Tipa Galeai will announce his college destination tomorrow night.

Galeai is one of the top players sill out there on UNT’s recruiting board and is projected as a defensive end. The Mean Green are likely out of the running, but one never knows.

UNT has also jumped into the race for Alex Honey, a wide receiver from Guyer who also has an offer from SMU.

UNT has its new defensive coordinator

Cosh

Chris Cosh has joined UNT’s coaching staff as its new defensive coordinator.

The school announced the hire Wednesday morning.

Cosh was recently the defensive line coach at Buffalo and is a veteran defensive coordinator with a background similar to that of John Skladany, the coach he will replace. Skladany retired after last season.

Cosh was the defensive coordinator at South Florida in 2012 and has served in that capacity in 16 of his 29 seasons as a coach. He has worked at Kansas State, Maryland, South Carolina, Michigan State and Illinois.

Cosh has worked under some of the top coaches in college football, including Nick Saban and Bill Snyder.

UNT has several coaches on its staff with ties to USF on its staff, including head coach Dan McCarney, who was an assistant coach at the school in 2007. UNT offensive coordinator Mike Canales and offensive line coach Mike Simmonds are also former USF assistants.

UNT-Langston running blog

UNT is taking on Langston in a rare morning game on DISD Day.

That would be Denton Independent School District for those of you scoring at home. Once a year, UNT invites elementary schools to bring their kids to a game. What you end up with is section upon section at the Super Pit filled with super enthusiastic, pompom waving, attendance figures boosting kids.

Part of the idea is that UNT gets a bunch of young fans hooked and they come back with their parents .

The Flintstones is playing on the video board. Scrappy is doing his thing.

The hope is the Mean Green will do their thing a little better than in last few weeks, when UNT has lost three straight and four of its last five.

Coach Tony Benford said yesterday that UNT would have all of its players available today. That apparently did not include Maurice Aniefiok, who is not dressed out. He crashed into the scorer’s table in a loss to SFA on Sunday.

We previewed the game in the paper today.

Langston is 5-2 and is receiving votes — in the NAIA national poll. The Lions have some talented players, including a few transfers.

UNT (4-4) should roll. It needs to with a game against Creighton coming up on Sunday.

Stay tuned. We will update the blog all day.

15:39 — UNT is up 7-3 in the early going here at the Super Pit. The Mean Green were up 7-0 before Langston hit a 3.

11:14 — Langston has gone on a run and is now up 14-12. The Lions have three 3s.

5:35 — I ducked out there for a minute to work on some football items. UNT is now up 25-19.

3:52 — UNT is up 27-21 late in the first half. Jeremy Combs has eight points for UNT.

Halftime — UNT is up 34-23 at halftime.Jordan Williams has nine points for UNT, while Jeremy Combs has eight. Combs started today in what looks like it might be long-term switch.

14:39 — Langston has pulled to within 40-36 and is headed to the line to try to cut it to a one-possession game. Jordan Williams has 11 points for UNT. Langston is on an 11-4 run.

10:14 — UNT is up 50-43 in what looks like it will be a close game the whole way.

7:27 — UNT is up 54-49 late against Langston in a game that is a little too close for comfort for the Mean Green. UNT has gone up seven multiple times only to see Langston come back and answer on the other end. Jordan Williams has 18 points for UNT.

6:42 — UNT is hanging on by a thread here at the Super Pit. The Mean Green have a 54-49 lead with Langston headed to the line with a chance to make this a one-possession game. Jordan Williams has 18 points for UNT.

5:18 — UNT is up 57-51 with Jordan Williams headed to the line for one more free throw after hitting the first.

3:53 — It looks like UNT will hang on here at the Super Pit. The Mean Green are up 64-53. Jordan Williams has 20 points for UNT. Jeremy Combs has 18 in one of his best games of the year.

2:11 — UNT is up 68-58 here in the closing minutes here at the Super Pit. Jeremy Combs has 22 for UNT.

Final — UNT 78-65. I will be back.

Breaking news — James Gray has signed with UNT

Gray

James Gray, a safety out of Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College, has signed with UNT.

Gray visited UNT and Southern Miss and was torn between the two. He decided to continue his career with the Mean Green late this weekend.

Gray said Sunday night that he would make the move official this morning during a signing ceremony at Fort Scott.

UNT has six mid-term junior college signees with the addition of Scott heading into the JUCO national signing period that begins today.

“I want to be a leader and carry that defense on my back,” Gray said via text message late Sunday night. “I want to represent all the JUCO guys in the nation and all the high school guys in Georgia.”

Gray (6-0, 200) with 60 tackles and four interceptions last season at Fort Scott. He was named an honorable mention JUCO All-American and was a first-team All-Jayhawk Conference pick.

Gray could help fill a need for UNT at safety.

The Mean Green lost both of their safeties in Lairamie Lee and Sheldon Wade to graduation.

UNT has one young player who appears to be ready to step into the lineup in Kishawn McClain.

The Mean Green targeted Gray to come in and compete for a starting spot.

At this point, a Gray-McClain pairing at safety appears to be the direction UNT is headed.

Signing Gray is a big win for UNT in recruiting against a key Conference USA rival in Southern Miss that beat the Mean Green last season.

UNT had another player visit campus over the weekend who is still trying to decide what he wants to do.

Stay tuned.