Is Chris Jones the magic cure-all for what ails UNT?

North Texas sophomore guard Chris Jones dribbles the ball on th perimeter during a game against Arkansas State on Thursday at the Super Pit.

It’s been a struggle for UNT most of the season and as we head into the conference tournament later this week, people are wondering if there is a reason to hope for a late turnaround.

Is there is a reason UNT could go on its annual run to the finals, it might be the return of Chris Jones. UNT has improved late in the year, and Jones’ return has had a lot to do with it. Jones posted six assists in his first game back against South Alabama and then scored eight points in a season-ending win over Arkansas State.

Jones is one of the best playmakers in the Sun Belt.

UNT head coach Tony Benford named two ways in which Jones’ return will help today. He gives UNT an extra perimeter defender and he is also a guy who can score from the point guard spot. P.J. Hardwick has started to look for his shot more, but he isn’t as big of a threat as Jones, who is averaging 9.5 points a game.

That could be a big factor in UNT’s first-round game against Louisiana-Lafayette, which has held Tony Mitchell to 10 points in two games, largely by sagging into the paint off of the Mean Green’s guards. UNT hasn’t made ULL pay for it.

“They do a good job of sagging in there, but with Chris back, we will be able to keep them from doing that,” Benford said.

The hope is Jones will also be able to keep Elfrid Payton from doing whatever he wants. Payton abused UNT for 24 points and nine assists in the teams’ second meeting this year, when the Ragin’ Cajuns hammered UNT 105-74.

UNT just does not have anyone who can matchup with Payton defensively without Jones.

“I’m ready to face Payton,” Jones said. “He’s really competitive. I like playing against players like that. It will be a good matchup. I hope it makes a difference that I’m back.”

So does UNT. Its season may depend on it.

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