After a long trip back from Ruston, the late-night hoops thoughts have turned into the late morning hoops thoughts following a split decision for UNT.
The UNT women continued to pick up some late-season steam by knocking off Old Dominion 68-52 in a really impressive performance, while the UNT men played well early before Louisiana Tech blew by for a 90-75 win.
I was in Ruston for that one.
And while we are on the subject of where I’m at, score one for our friend Joe Letsche from The Ticket.
@brettvito apparently you're the problem. The women play better when you're not here. lol
— Joe LJ Letsche (@LJ1310TheTicket) February 8, 2014
The UNT men were in desperate need of a win heading into their game at La. Tech and played really well early, leading by as many as nine. The Bulldogs eventually worked their way back into the game late in the first half and led by one at the break when Jaron Johnson hit a killer corner 3 just before the halftime buzzer.
One could see a mile away what was coming next. La. Tech adjusted to UNT’s zone and attacked. The Bulldogs shot 42 free throws, including a whopping 30 in the second half.
No one had shot that many free throws against UNT since Middle Tennessee shot 44 in an 89-80 overtime win over the Mean Green on Dec. 31, 2008.
Tony Benford was not happy.
“We are not the most aggressive team in this league,” Benford said. “They are and shot 42 free throws. That is the most anyone has shot against us. I can’t defend against that. I am telling my guys to play hard and defend without fouling. Shooting 42 free throws is crazy. I don’t understand that. I can’t say anything about the officials, but that is a lot of free throws and we were in a zone [defense] most of the game.”
UNT’s zone was pretty effective when the Mean Green went to it early in the year, but one has to wonder at this point if teams are not doing a better job preparing for it.
UNT ranks second to last in C-USA in scoring defense in league play at 75.8 points a game.
The Bulldogs got the ball to the free throw line or the short corner and attacked from there all night. La. Tech was able to get to the basket and draw fouls or kick it out/swing it for open 3s.
Jordan Williams had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds for UNT. Alzee Williams added 11 and Vertrail Vaughns 10. Colin Voss added nine points and nine rebounds.
UNT was hoping to move up in the C-USA standings late in the year, but it now just a half game out of last place.
What makes this all the tougher for UNT to take is that SMU has really gotten it going on the Hilltop. SMU hammered No. 7 Cincinnati 76-55 on Saturday and will certainly be in the Top 25 this week.
Here’s the scary part.
Collin Mangrum used the NCAA grad transfer rule to play his senior season at SMU in 2010-11 partly because he could hardly get off the bench at UNT, started 19 games and was the Mustangs fifth-leading scorer (6.0 points a game), third leading rebounder (2.5 boards a game) and ranked fourth on the team in assists (58 on the season).
The Mustangs have now beaten three ranked teams this year and has clearly grabbed the title of the Metroplex’s top team that UNT once had a stranglehold on. A lot has changed since Mangrum transferred and ended up starting down in Dallas.
The tide has turned, and it might not be easy to turn it back. People are turning out to watch the Mustangs in droves in a newly renovated arena.
As far as the UNT women go, the Mean Green turned in a fine defensive performance, limiting Shea Kelley to six points, well under her season average of 17.3.
Briesha Wynn had 17 points, Alexis Hyder 15, Hannah Christian 13 and Laura McCoy 11.
UNT is now in a tie for for 10th in the C-USA standings and squarely in the hunt for a first-round bye in the C-USA tournament.