Late-night hoops thoughts (UNT-Tulsa edition)

North Texas point guard Chris Jones talks with senior guards Brandan Walton (2) and Alzee Williams (3) during a 79-68 loss to Tulsa on Thursday at the Super Pit. Both Williams and Walton scored 20 points in their final home game. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

UNT lost its regular-season finale tonight, falling to Tulsa 79-68.

We will get to the details, but first the important fallout. UNT fell to 15-15 on the year and 6-10 in Conference USA play. UNT was hoping to earn a bye in the conference tournament next week with a win and some help. That hope went out the window with the loss.

UNT ended up as the No. 10 seed and will face the No. 15 seed Rice in a first-round game at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Rice is terrible — 2-14 in conference play terrible.

Here’s the issue. One of Rice’s wins this season came when the Owls beat the Mean Green 75-70.

UNT went on a roll not too long after that loss, rolling off four straight wins.

The Mean Green’s hope is that while it lost tonight, its performance while hanging with Tulsa for much of the night is a sign it is getting back to the form it showed during that run.

Alzee Williams and Brandan Walton led the way tonight with 20 points each.

UNT just didn’t have enough firepower outside of that duo to get past Tulsa.

UNT was within 61-59 with 5:27 left, but Tulsa went on a 6-0 and closed the Mean Green out.

UNT didn’t get much out of its post players again, which was a big topic of conversation after the game. Colin Voss (three points, three rebounds), Keith Coleman (one point, two rebounds) and Kelvin Gaines (no points, two rebounds) didn’t do much in 44 minutes.

“Tulsa did a good job with post defense,” UNT coach Tony Benford said. “We have to get scoring inside. I am big on paint touches and all the touches we get are from driving. We are not getting much out of our big guys right now. It’s tough not to get anything out of the post.”

Benford said UNT would address its issues in the paint in recruiting and expressed confidence in the contributions Greg Wesley and Jeremy Combs could make next season.

I never had any doubt that UNT was going to miss Tony Mitchell and Roger Franklin, and miss them a lot, this season.

The way the last few games have gone have only illustrated the point. Yeah, Franklin was undersized. There is no way one can tell me a player with his skills wouldn’t be a huge asset for UNT this year.

UNT has some good guards, but I have a feeling we could be looking back next year and thinking the same thing about how much the Mean Green misses Williams.

The vet ranks second on the team in scoring (11.5 points a game), second in assists (40), is arguably the team’s second-best ball-handler, one of its best defenders and leads the team in minutes played per game (28.1).

Plus has been through the wars.

If one thinks that guy, not to mention another pretty good guard in Walton, are going to be easy to replace, well, that’s nuttier than squirrel droppings.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, UNT does have a chance to make some hay in the conference tournament this year. Rice is an opponent UNT has a good chance to beat.

After that it gets tougher, with Tulane sitting there in the second round after a bye.

Benford and his players pointed out the season resets at this point.

A win in the conference tournament would give UNT something to hang its hat on.

It’s on to El Paso now to see if UNT can get it done.


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