UNT-FAU thoughts (Benford on why Mitchell did not start)

North Texas senior guard Roger Franklin (32) makes a bounce pass under the basket to sophomore forward Keith Coleman (44) during a game against Florida Atlantic on Thursday at the Super Pit. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

UNT has a winning streak for the first time since December after knocking off Florida Atlantic 66-57 tonight in overtime at the Super Pit.

Roger Franklin hit a huge 3 in to get UNT going in the extra period when UNT outscored FAU 9-0. Franklin finished with 20 in a gutty performance.

On any other night, a dramatic win would be the story. Tonight, it seemed like a side note at best.

The bigger stories are the fact that UNT seems like it might actually have a little something going and the fact that Tony Mitchell didn’t start due to a violation of team rules. UNT beat Troy in its last outing (again by the skin of its teeth) and has now won two straight for the first time since beating Jackson State and Southeastern Louisiana on Dec. 8 and Dec. 16.

To say a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then might be a bit of an understatement. Chris Jones broke his foot and recovered to the point he might be back for a game at South Alabama on Saturday or UNT’s regular season finale at home against Arkansas State since that winning streak. Jacob Holmen and Justin Patton were lost for the season since then. UNT had played 17 games since then. Tonight was game 18 since the streak.

And now UNT has a new streak.

That wasn’t exactly the plan, but at this point, UNT will take what it can get.

Perhaps the bigger story was that Mitchell didn’t start. The sophomore lives in the spotlight. It comes with the territory when one is a top NBA prospect at a place like UNT.

The obvious question was why.

Benford laid out the reason after the game:

“Tony is a great kid,” Benford said. “He violated team rules and we are going to be accountable. I am not going to have any academic issues. We are going to go to class and study hall and do the things we are supposed to do. I owe it to these guys parents to make sure these kids don’t flunk out of school.”

I am not going to read too much into the situation, but it does make one wonder. Mitchell has said he will consider entering the NBA draft after the season. Could he be tiring of the college routine?

There is no way to tell based on something as small as a rules violation and a pretty vague coach quote on handling academic responsibilities.

It does make one wonder, though.

Having that question floating out there is the price of being a star.

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