Well, it’s over.
At least for UNT it is, the Sun Belt tournament that is.
The UNT women squandered more chances to close out Louisiana-Lafayette than one can count and lost 80-74 in double overtime. The UNT men made the Sun Belt tourney final the last three years and four of the last six before Johnny Jones bolted for LSU. UNT failed to make it out of the first round this year after being blasted by ULL 74-55.
I caught some flak for saying that I thought ULL was a bad matchup for UNT in the men’s game. After UNT lost to ULL three times this season, I think it’s safe to say that ULL was indeed a bad matchup for the Mean Green.
ULL head coach Bob Marlin credited Shawn Forrest for doing a great job scouting the Mean Green. Marlin mentioned that UNT was 0-6 in black jerseys this year. If you don’t think ULL’s staff knew UNT inside and out, that should pretty much put those thoughts to rest. ULL knew UNT’s record by JERSEY COLOR.
The hope was the return of Chris Jones at the point guard spot would change UNT’s fortunes after the Mean Green lost to ULL twice, once by 31 points last in the season. Jones went 1-for-9, scored four points and had one assist.
To make matters worse, head coach Tony Benford suspended Alzee Williams for a violation of team rules. That left UNT short-handed on the perimeter, where Elfird Payton once again torched UNT. Payton finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
ULL kept the ball away from Tony Mitchell, who took just seven shots and finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds. All-around good guy and good player Roger Franklin added 13 points.
It’s hard to imagine Mitchell not declaring for the draft at this point. He came back to try to improve his draft stock. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this year didn’t help matters.
What one has to worry about with UNT at this point is that if Mitchell does declare, this team will lose not only him, but Franklin as well. Those guys will be tough to replace, and don’t forget Niko Stojiljkovic, who had four points and nine rebounds is also gone.
UNT is jumping up to Conference USA as well, which means the level of competition the Mean Green will face is about to get tougher.
It’s easier to make an argument that the UNT women have a bright future with the Alexis Hyder, who had 25 points and 12 rebounds tonight in the last game of her freshman year. Fellow freshman Loryn Goodwin added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Sara Stanley, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds, is about the only key piece UNT is losing.
There is no way to get around the fact that UNT blew a chance to pick up a key win in a game this team needed to win tonight. ULL was arguably the worst team in the Sun Belt this year. UNT didn’t defend the 3-point line early, allowing ULL to get hot. The Cajuns hit 11 3s
UNT had chances to win the game at the end of regulation and was up four in both overtime periods, but couldn’t seal the deal.
The experience is one UNT will have to hope it learns from heading into Mike Petersen’s second year as UNT’s head coach.
I thought I would be staying a bit longer in Hot Springs, largely because I thought the UNT women would win. UNT went two-and-out instead.
It’s been a long time since that happened — 2006 to be exact.
That has to be a tough pill to swallow for UNT.