UNT-Rice preview/running blog

UNT will take on Rice here in a few minutes at the Super Pit.

The Mean Green enter this game off a tough loss to Southern Miss a week ago. UNT had a chance to close that game late in regulation and blew it. The Golden Eagles ended up winning 75-71 in overtime.

UNT (8-11, 2-5 Conference USA) has lost three of its last four games and is facing a tough trip to Western Kentucky and Marshall next week. This is a game UNT really needs to win.

We went over the matchup in our regularly scheduled Chalk Talk post last night.

Rice depends heavily on connecting from 3-point range and leads Conference USA with an average of 8.6 3s a game. Where UNT has an advantage is inside where Jeremy Combs has an edge athletically. Colin Voss also matches up well with Rice inside.

Combs had 18 points in UNT’s 66-63 win over Rice in Houston earlier this year.

Rice (6-13, 3-4) actually is ahead of UNT in the Conference USA standings and won consecutive games against Charlotte and Southern Miss before falling to Louisiana Tech and Houston last week.

Sophomore guard Marcus Jackson is averaging 14.3 points a game and has pushed his average to 19.3 points a game in league play. UNT will have to stretch its zone to get to Jackson.

Stay tuned. I will update the blog all night.

6:55 — In a weird twist, UNT is having a youth league game before tipoff. I’m not sure if I have ever seen that before.

6:57 — UNT’s starters: T.J. Taylor, Jordan Williams, Maurice Aniefiok, Jeremy Combs and Colin Voss. Taylor is back in at the point guard spot for the second straight game.

15:32 — UNT is down 9-7 at the first media timeout of the first half. Jordan Williams and Colin Voss both have three points for UNT. Rice hit its first three 3-point attempts and is shooting 50 percent from the field.

11:41 — This game is tied up at 15-15 at the second media timeout of the first half. Rice is headed to the line with a chance to take the lead. Jeremy Combs has seven points and had a nice put-back dunk. Rice led by as many as four early.

7:41 — UNT is down 22-19 at the third media timeout of the first half. UNT was down five before Jordan Williams scored. . Jeremy Combs still leads UNT with seven points. UNT has hit just one of its last five shots from the field. Rice has hit five 3s already.

5:19 — Rice is on fire from deep and is up 31-22 and Seth Gearhart just dropped the Owls’ eighth. TO UNT.

3:33 — Rice is now 9-for-15 from 3-point range and is up 36-27. Remember when UNT couldn’t miss in its game against Louisiana Tech in the first half? This looks pretty similar. Rice depends on the 3 to power its offense and is getting some good looks in transition.

19.2 — Maurice Aniefiok is keeping this close for UNT. He just hit a 3 to pull UNT to within 45-35.

Halftime — UNT is down 45-37 at halftime, and it could have been a whole lot worse than that. The Mean Green were down 13 before Maurice Aniefiok hit a 3. UNT caught a couple of breaks in the closing seconds on a questionable five-second call and when Rice lost its mind and fouled Jordan Williams with 1.0 seconds left on the clock. Rice went 12-for-19 from 3-point range in the first half. Aniefiok has 13 points and Jordan Williams 10 in the first half.

14:57 — UNT is down 54-50 early in the second half. Jordan Williams just hit a 3. UNT took a timeout right away after the shot dropped. UNT was within three at 48-45 before Rice pushed its lead back out to seven on its 13th 3 on the night. Jordan Williams has 15 points for UNT.

14:24 — Rice just missed a chippie at the rim, but will get the ball back after this media timeout. Maurice Aniefiok has 13 points for UNT. Rice has hit just one 3 in the second half.

10:58 — UNT is down 57-54 at the second media timeout of the second half. UNT was within two before Rice hit a corner 3. Jordan Williams has 15 points for UNT. The Mean Green keep hanging around. That run at the end of the half by UNT really changed this game.

6:51 — This game is all tied up at 58-58 as we head down the stretch. Rice is headed to the line for a one-and-one opportunity. T.J. Taylor tied the game up with a jumper from the wing. Jordan Williams has 15 points, while Jeremy Combs and Maurice Aniefiok both have 13 for UNT.

5:01 — UNT has taken a 62-59 lead and has all the momentum in this game at this point. T.J. Taylor just hit a big layup for UNT’s last points.

4:42 — Jordan Williams just hit a layup on a curl and drew a foul. He’s headed to the line with UNT up 64-59. It looks like UNT is going to rally for the win here.

3:54 — Colin Voss hit a hook on UNT’s last possession to put the Mean Green up 66-59 at the final media timeout. Jordan Williams has 17 points to lead UNT. Rice hasn’t hit a shot from the field since it was was 57-52 and is one for its last 14 from the field.

1:16 — UNT is up 70-64 and is about to wrap this one up. The Mean Green were up nine before Rice hit a 3 off a scramble play. That is one of the few 3s Rice has hit in the second half.

:45 — DeAndre Harris is down. He walked off, but took a pretty hard hit.

Final — UNT 75, Rice 65. I will be back later.

Breaking news — Paul Banks III has flipped to Texas Tech

Banks

Paul Banks III, a cornerback from Navarro College who committed to UNT just five days ago, confirmed late Saturday afternoon that he now plans to sign with Texas Tech and has committed to the Red Raiders.

“The coaches are what led me to change my mind,” Banks said. “They knew me from when I was committed to Houston.”

Banks was briefly committed to play for the Cougars and was recruited by former Houston coach David Gibbs, who was named the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech on Jan. 5.

That relationship was a key factor in Banks backing out of his commitment to UNT, where his cousin Robert Harmon was a three-year letterman from 2004-06.

Banks was waiting on an offer from Texas Tech when he committed to UNT. The Red Raiders subsequently set up an official visit for Banks this weekend.

Banks quickly changed his mind once he arrived in Lubbock and elected to continue his career with the Red Raiders.

Banks is rated as a three-star prospect by 247 Sports and was one of the top-rated players to commit to UNT.

Banks said it was tough to back out of his commitment to UNT, which will now likely turn its attention to  landing Xavier Grindle, a cornerback out of Pearl River (Mississippi) Community College, who is in town this weekend.

UNT set up a last minute visit with Grindle after it became apparent that Banks was visiting Texas Tech.

Grindle emerged on UNT’s radar late in the recruiting season and talked about his interest in UNT just a few days ago. 

Grindle signed with Mississippi State back in 2012 and redshirted his first season at the school before electing to transfer out.

JUCO All-American linebacker Demetrius Cain is also in town this weekend and is one of UNT’s top remaining targets.

Chalk talk — Rice at UNT

Rice at UNT

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Super Pit

Radio: KNTU-FM 88.1, KHYI-FM 95.3

Records: UNT 8-11, 2-5 C-USA, Rice 6-13, 3-4 C-USA

Last game: Southern Miss 75, UNT 71 (OT)

Projected UNT starting lineup:

PG: T.J. Taylor, 6-3, Sr. — 7.6 points, 3.8 rebounds a game, 36 assists, 15 steals on the season. Taylor returned to UNT’s starting lineup after coming off the bench for three games in the Mean Green’s loss to Southern Miss and finished with seven points and four rebounds.

SG: Maurice Aniefiok, 6-5 Jr. — 7.9 points, 3.1 rebounds a game, shooting 39.1 percent from 3-point range, 25 assists, 17 steals on the season. Aniefiok scored 16 points and hit four of his nine 3-point attempts in the Mean Green’s loss to Southern Miss.

SF: Jordan Williams, 6-6 Sr. — 15.6 points, 5.2 rebounds a game, 43 assists, 32 steals on the season. Williams finished with 19 points and hit four 3s in UNT’s loss to Southern Miss. The senior has scored in double figures in all but one game this season.

F: Jeremy Combs, 6-7, Fr. — 10.0 points, 6.6 rebounds a game, shooting 58.4 percent from the field, but just 46.8 percent from the free-throw line. Combs had a terrific game against Southern Miss overall, scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds, but did miss the front end of a one-and-one opportunity in the closing seconds that could have iced the game. Southern Miss hit a late 3 to tie the game up and send it into overtime, where the Golden Eagles pulled away for the win. Combs also had a season-high six turnovers.

F: Colin Voss, 6-7, Sr. — 7.9 points, 5.8 rebounds a game, shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 76.1 percent from the line, 24 assists on the season. Voss finished with eight points against Southern Miss and has scored in double figures in four of UNT’s last six games. The senior hit a pair of free throws to put the Mean Green up three in the closing seconds before the Golden Eagles rallied.

Scouting Rice:

Rice beat Charlotte and Southern Miss in back-to-back games before dropping games to Louisiana Tech and Houston. Marcus Jackson is averaging 14.3 points a game to lead Rice and has pushed his average to 19.3 points a game in C-USA play. Senior forward Seth Gearhart is adding 13.9 points a game.

Who’s hot:

Jordan Williams moved into 10th place in UNT’s loss to Southern Miss by scoring 19 points. The senior hit four 3s and has 1,341 career points. Williams has scored in double figures in 14 straight games and all but one of UNT’s games this season.

What you need to know:

UNT blew what seemed like a golden opportunity to get on a late-season roll a week ago when the Mean Green lost to Southern Miss in overtime. UNT came into the night off an out-of-nowhere win over Louisiana Tech, which might be the best team in C-USA.

UNT will look to recover against Rice tonight, when the Mean Green will look to solve their issues in the second half. UNT was up 37-29 in the second half against Southern Miss before blowing that edge.

Louisiana Tech outscored UNT 38-24 in the second half of the Mean Green’s previous game and nearly dug its way out of a 21-point halftime deficit before UNT hung on for a 73-66 win.

What made that loss particularly painful was that UNT beat Rice earlier this season. If the Mean Green had hung on against Southern Miss, they would have had a perfect opportunity to win their third straight game today.

The goal now for UNT is to get back on track before what will be a tough road trip to Western Kentucky and Marshall next week.

Weekend recruiting primer

This is the final weekend before national signing day, when UNT will look to put the finishing touches on its signing class. There has been a bit of movement here and there, but the Mean Green appear pretty set with what they have at this point.

UNT added some pretty key pieces last week in JUCO defensive end Jareid Combs, cornerback Paul Banks III and wide receiver D’Aundrey Bradley.

The Mean Green have one prospect coming in this weekend we know of in Demitrius Cain, a JUCO All-American linebacker from East Mississippi JC who talked to us a little about where he stood in the recruiting process a few days ago. 

UNT has looked to completely revamp its defense through the junior college ranks in this class, picking up five transfers. Cain would be the sixth on that side of the ball.

I expect UNT to bring in a few additional prospects. We should find out more in the next day or so.

So how is UNT doing compared to the competition?

There are a lot of different ways to look at it.

UNT has addressed a whole lot of needs — including the glaring one at quarterback with JUCO transfer DaMarcus Smith. Combs was a big addition at defensive end. Bradley is one of the top high school guys in UNT’s class.

UNT is also going really, really heavy on junior college players, which could be a bit of a concern.

Every JUCO player fills a spot in an incoming class and he’s only around for two years. Missing on JUCO players really hurts.

UNT is banking on its JUCO players hitting this year. The Mean Green took three last year in quarterback Josh Greer, linebacker AJ Smith and safety Matthew Dash. None made the impact UNT had hoped. UNT got a steal in James Jones in 2013, along with a contributor in Shawn McKinney. Injuries derailed Quenton Brown’s career and Justin Manu never made it on the field after the NCAA discovered his eligibility clock had run out.

By the end of the weekend, we should know if UNT will add Cain and go even heavier on JUCO players.

Another measure (and I think it’s a good one) are the recruiting rankings.

UNT is sitting 10th in the 247 Sports rankings of C-USA classes at this point and will likely finish near the bottom of the league in most publications’ assessment of how teams fared.

Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech and Marshall will finish at the top of the league rankings.

The impact of the classes arriving in 2015 won’t be felt for at least a couple of years. Those teams appear as if they will be starting out with more talent to work with, especially long term.

And don’t forget, Louisiana Tech also landed Florida transfer quarterback Jeff Driskel.

That was a bit of a surprise.

We could soon find out if UNT has anything up its sleeve heading into national signing day.

Update 2:30 – UNT was supposed to host Xavier Grindle, a cornerback out of Pearl River (Mississippi) Community College this weekend. UNT arranged for Grindle, who we talked to a few days ago, to visit campus. Grindle confirmed this afternoon that he had to cancel the trip due to family issues back in Mississippi. UNT has a commitment from Navarro College cornerback Paul Banks III. Chances seem slim at this point that Grindle ends up signing with UNT.

Update 3:30 – It looks like Xavier Grindle is going to make it to town after all. He has worked through some family issues and will take a flight out to DFW tonight that will get him to town late. UNT has one JUCO cornerback in its class in Paul Banks III. It looks like the Mean Green could take a look at adding another. Grindle shot me a text and also posted an update on his Twitter account.

Update 4:45 – A sharp UNT fan pointed this out. It looks like UNT commit Paul Banks III may be on his way out of town on an official visit. Texas Tech is in the hunt for Banks. I will update this later if I get confirmation from him.

Update 5:22 – We now have confirmation that UNT commit Paul Banks III is on his way to Texas Tech. The way this is playing out with UNT rushing Xavier Grindle to campus is making more and more sense.

Update 7:30 – Since we are all on the Paul Banks watch today, this tidbit becomes pretty interesting …

Baylor has beaten out Texas Tech for three-star cornerback Henry Black. The question has always been if Texas Tech would offer Banks, The chances seem a little higher now with one of Texas Tech’s other cornerback targets off the board.

A couple of late-night notes

The on-again, off-again saga of UNT’s pursuit of San Angelo Central defensive lineman Eli Howard appears to have finally come to a close.

As far as we can tell, UNT finally managed to “put a ring on it” or as least as close as it’s going to get before national signing day.

I bring it up because Howard picked up some hardware for his performance as a senior recently when he was named the District 3-6A Defensive MVP and a member of the San Angelo Standard-Times All-West Texas Super Team.

He also received the Holland’s Award, which is presented for sportsmanship, conscientiousness and athletic ability as voted on by players at San Angelo Central.

Howard committed to UNT, decommitted and recommitted.

The fact he was honored for his season is a good sign for UNT.

On the basketball front, I promised to post a link to the feature in today’s paper on Guyer guard Sean Choate, who UNT is recruiting. I don’t know if the Mean Green will offer, but they are sniffing around.

It’s a nice piece our Guyer writer Adam Boedeker spent some time on.

And speaking of basketball, there was a good piece on former UNT guard Chris Jones, who is now starring for Angelo State, in today’s Standard-Times as well. Jones talks a little about his decision to transfer out of UNT and the reasons behind it that we also wrote about when he left. He also talks about how he has found a home at Angelo State, which is really good this year.

Jones is a big reason why the Rams are among the nation’s elite DII teams. He’s averaging 14.8 points, 5.3 assists and 2.9 steals a game.

Thursday afternoon notes (recruiting, C-USA issues, et cetera)

We are in the middle of arguably one of the busiest times overall in UNT athletics. Basketball season is in the stretch run and national signing day is just a few days away.

We haven’t even talked about the Conference USA meetings this week (we will get to that in a minute).

But first off, a bit of news on the recruiting front.

Harrison

When we last spoke to Oklahoma defensive lineman Demikal Harrison, he had committed to UTEP, but left open the possibility of making a late trip to UNT.

Harrison said this afternoon that he won’t visit UNT. Tulsa has now jumped in and offered. Part of the attraction of UNT for Harrison is that it is closer to home than UTEP. Tulsa would also be pretty close.

My guess is Harrison still ends up at UTEP. This much appears clear at this point, Harrison isn’t headed to UNT.

And speaking of the C-USA meetings, they are going on this week in Boca Raton. There are a couple of big issues in play this year.

The big topic is the future of UAB, which announced a few weeks ago that it is dropping football. The school’s plans remain a somewhat fluid situation. The same can be said about the school’s future in the league.

C-USA schools all have football programs. Does the league make a temporary exception for UAB (seems possible) or a permanently allow UAB to stay if it doesn’t bring back its program (seems unlikely).

The bigger question for UNT is how whatever takes place will affect its football schedule for next season and beyond, not to mention how the league’s divisions shape up.

The other big issue the league is looking at is full cost of attendance scholarships. The Power 5 conferences are making the move to give athletes more money to cover incidental expenses. C-USA officials said the league plans to follow the lead of the nation’s elite leagues during football media day last summer.

But what does that entail?

Will the larger scholarships only apply to football and men’s and women’s basketball? What about other non-revenue sports like track and softball?

Can C-USA schools really afford to funnel thousands of extra dollars into those sports?

We could find out a little more this week about what the league’s plans are.

 

 

Looks like two Southern Miss players now ineligible

In today’s sign that it isn’t easy being green, it appears that two Southern Miss players who contributed to the Golden Eagles slump-busting win over UNT just a few days ago are about to be declared ineligible.

A couple of major national media outlets are reporting that Rasham Suarez and Jeremiah Eason won’t play for the Golden Eagles the rest of the year.

That would be a huge hit for Southern Miss, which is seeing its program quickly slide into a huge hole after last year’s NIT season. Coach Donnie Tyndall left for Tennessee after the season.

An NCAA investigation soon followed. Southern Miss placed itself on a year’s postseason ban the week it played the Mean Green.

Southern Miss has just one C-USA win all season, a 75-71 overtime win over the Mean Green on Saturday.

Suarez finished with nine points, while Eason grabbed three rebounds and added two assists.

Southern Miss barely won that game, one UNT had a chance to ice at the free-throw line at the end of regulation.

It certainly makes one wonder if Southern Miss would have been able to upset UNT without Suarez and Eason.

Southern Miss hasn’t played since beating UNT. If both Suarez and Eason are done for the year, helping the Golden Eagles beat UNT will be their last accomplishment of the season.

Check back with Jason later. He’ll have the full story.

Thursday morning notes (McDonald’s All-Americans, et cetera)

Flower Mound junior Emma MacCarron (32) tries to slow Marcus forward Taylor Roof (20) during a game in Flower Mound last season. Roof was a McDonald’s All-American nominee. (The Dallas Morning News special contributor/Mark M. Hancock)

I mentioned yesterday that the McDonald’s High School All-American rosters were coming out.

UNT women’s basketball signee Taylor Roof of Flower Mound Marcus was UNT’s only nominee this year among the players who have signed with the Mean Green’s men’s and women’s teams

Here are the rosters.

Roof didn’t make it. That’s not a surprise. The whole roster from both the men’s and women’s teams are headed to power programs. (In a side note, former UNT coaches Johnny Jones at LSU and Karen Aston at Texas landed two each).

The point was always that Roof is a good player and a great sign for UNT. If you didn’t catch the video from earlier this season when Channel 5 named her the scholar athlete of the week, check back on the blog.

And in a side note, it looks like former UNT linebacker Craig Robertson is back in town. Robertson had a great year for the Browns and was nominated for the NFL Man of the Year award.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote a nice piece on Robertson this year that I haven’t posted a link to before. The piece includes some video and talks about Robertson’s new daughter.

Robertson is getting married on Valentines Day coming up.

There are some cute pictures of his daughter with the story.

UNT taking an interest in Guyer guard

Guyer guard Sean Choate (5) takes a shot over Ryan guard Ibrahim Logan earlier this season at Guyer High School. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

UNT has long wanted to build a pipeline to the Denton high schools that crank out major college football prospects by the dozen on an annual basis.

Those schools haven’t had major college basketball talent nearly as often. This year is the exception, and UNT may be looking to take advantage. Guyer senior guard Sean Choate has been one of the best players in Denton for years, has scored more than 1,000 points in his career and is one of the better 3-point shooters in the state.

UNT has noticed and begun recruiting the Wildcats senior. Here are his Hudl highlights.

Choate is averaging 22.4 points a game and at 6-foot-2 can play both the point guard spot and on the wing. He’s hitting 3.4 shots from behind the 3-point arc a game. To put that in perspective, Ohio State signee Austin Grandstaff of Rockwall is considered one of the nation’s elite shooters. He’s hitting 3.7 3s a game and leads the Dallas area with an average of 27.9 points a game.

I bring Choate up because our Guyer writer Adam Boedeker will have a feature on him in Friday’s paper. That story should be of interest to UNT fans because the Mean Green are clearly interested in Choate

UNT assistant coach Rob Evans attended one of Guyer's recent games and saw Wildcats guard Sean Choate in action.

David Minton, one of our staff photographers, spotted UNT assistant coach Rob Evans checking out Choate a few days ago during a game in town.

Adam is about as wired in as one can possibly be at a high school and told me tonight that Navy, East Central, South Dakota School of Mines and John Brown have offered.

UTA and Liberty have started to show interest in Choate, along with UNT.

The Mean Green aren’t exactly lighting it up from deep this season. UNT ranks 13th out of 14 teams in Conference USA in 3-point shooting percentage at 29.9 percent and 3-pointers made per game at 4.74.

Maurice Aniefiok is shooting 39.1 percent from beyond the arc, while Jordan Williams is shooting 29.3 percent.

Williams has hit 29 3s, while Aniefiok has hit 27. Williams is a senior, while Aniefiok is a junior.

There isn’t anyone else on UNT’s roster who has hit more than 14 3s on the year. Granted, the Mean Green could become a whole lot better shooting team  from deep next season when Texas A&M transfer J-Mychal Reese becomes eligible and Todd Eaglin has shown potential.

The point is that even with those guys coming back next year, UNT could use someone who can shoot it from the outside consistently to add to the roster.

Choate could be an intriguing option.

It’s just something to keep in mind as we head into the late signing period.

Wednesday afternoon tidbits (recruiting, hoops)

One of the players we have been following for the last few months on the recruiting front is Plano center Beau Hott. He was actually the player who launched the UNT recruiting target series. Here’s our original story.

I bring him up all these months later because he has flipped from Oregon State to New Mexico. I was pretty confident he would end up at UNT for a few months there. He committed to OSU, which was a bit of a surprise. Now he’s headed to New Mexico. Again, a bit of a surprise.

And in other news, the McDonald’s All-American team will be announced in a few hours. The Burger Game is the golden stamp of approval that makes a high school prospect truly elite.

Just being nominated is a big deal. UNT has one nominee this year in Flower Mound Marcus forward Taylor Roof.

IN case you missed it, Roof was NBC 5′s Scholar Athlete of the Week a while back.

The UNT men’s team was shut out as far as nominees go, but it appears as if former UNT coaches Johnny Jones and Karen Aston, who are now at LSU and Texas, respectively, will have a couple of players named to the teams.

Here’s a link to the McDonald’s All-American website where the announcement will be posted at 5 p.m. There is also an announcement show on ESPNU at the same time.