Thoughts on why Harris is so vital for UNT

North Texas sophomore guard DeAndre Harris brings the ball up court in a game against Charlotte earlier this season at the Super Pit. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

UNT coach Tony Benford has suspended sophomore guard DeAndre Harris again, this time for his actions on the bench during a loss to Old Dominion on Saturday.

Harris will be out for UNT’s game at UTEP on Thursday. For more on the basic news and Benford’s comments, check back on the blog for our post from earlier today.

What I haven’t gotten into are the ramifications of the sophomore guard struggling to stay out of trouble.

The bottom line is that that is a huge year for UNT and Benford, because if one looks at it, the Mean Green are loaded with key seniors. There’s Jordan Williams, one of the program’s all-time most productive players from a statistical standpoint, not to mention Colin Voss, T.J. Taylor and Armani Flannigan.

Those guys are not going to be easy to replace from a statistical standpoint. Outside of Jeremy Combs, Harris is one of the few players who appears ready to step into what will be a huge void next season.

Here’s a look at UNT’s seniors and what they are providing this season:

SF Jordan Williams (starter) — 15.4 points, 5.1 rebounds a game

PF Colin Voss (starter) — 9.0 points, 6.0 rebounds a game

PG T.J. Taylor (starter) — 8.5 points, 3.3 rebounds a game

PF Armani Flannigan (key reserve) — 3.4 points, 2.5 rebounds a game

Taken together, those four guys average 36.3 points and 16.9 rebounds a game. That’s 55.1 percent of UNT’s scoring average of 65.8 points a game.

Jeremy Combs will continue to improve. The addition of Texas A&M transfer J-Mychal Reese will also be big and will help tremendously at the point guard spot. UNT is hoping high school big man Ricky Brice can help right away. Personally, I think Brice is going to need a year to adjust to the college game and that UNT will be lucky if he averages six points and five rebounds a game a game next season, but let’s say he adequately replaces Voss.

That still leaves UNT with a huge hole to fill on the wing with Williams gone. Harris is by far UNT’s best hope for someone to come close to covering that production. Take him out of the equation if he doesn’t work out and UNT is really short on scoring guards/shooters.

Starting shooting guard Maurice Aniefiok will be back. He’s averaging 8.0 points a game and is UNT’s best (37.4 percent) and most prolific (40 makes on the year) 3-point shooter. He will fill one wing spot. Carrington Ward will return from a broken foot and Greg White-Pittman will be back from a shoulder injury.

That certainly isn’t much outside of Aniefiok, especially considering what UNT is losing in Williams. Lose Williams and Harris and the situation becomes pretty dire unless UNT can add a couple of ready-to-go junior college guards.

That could be tough do in the late signing period that begins April 15.

UNT really needs Harris to work out. It probably needs at least one ready-to-play JUCO wing even with Aniefiok returning.

There are some UNT fans who have questioned if Benford would be willing to move on from Harris and go in another direction. I just don’t see it. Benford has known Harris since he was a kid. It would be hard for him to cut ties with Harris anyway.

Considering what UNT is facing after this season and how important Harris appears to be to UNT’s future, it seems highly unlikely.

UNT really, really needs Harris to figure it out — for this year and especially for its future.

DeAndre Harris suspended for second time (updated)


DeAndre Harris, a key contributor off the bench for the UNT men’s basketball team, has been suspended and will miss the Mean Green’s game Thursday at UTEP.

UNT coach Tony Benford said Monday that he suspended Harris for his actions during the Mean Green’s loss to Old Dominion on Saturday. Harris didn’t play in the second half.

Benford said that there is no timetable for Harris’ return. He was at the Mean Green’s practice Monday afternoon.

“There were some words exchanged,” Benford said. “We are going to be good teammates. That is nonnegotiable. He has been a good teammate, but his emotions got the best of him.”

Benford left open the possibility that Harris could return for UNT’s regular season finale at UTSA on Saturday and the Conference USA tournament, if he meets conditions set by the staff.

This is the second time this season Harris has been suspended. He was also suspended indefinitely after being ejected twice in the span of four games, in a loss to UTEP on Jan. 2 and a loss to Charlotte on Jan. 15. He returned two games later.

Emotions ran high throughout UNT’s loss to ODU. Shouting could be heard on the Super Pit floor coming from the hallway to UNT’s locker room after the Mean Green’s players left the court. UNT officials instructed arena security to not allow anyone through the exit where the Mean Green’s players left the court.

Benford said the incident in the hallway was not a part of the reason he suspended Harris and was the result of a disagreement. He declined to elaborate on what took place.

“These guys are like brothers,” Benford said. “There may be a disagreement here or there, but not more than on any other team I’ve been associated with.”

Harris is averaging 6.8 points a game. He averaged 10.2 points a game during a five-game winning streak that ended with UNT’s loss to ODU and hit the game-winning free throws in the Mean Green’s win over Middle Tennessee in the second game of the streak.

Harris did not score in eight minutes off the bench against ODU.

The Sunday leftovers

North Texas senior guard Jordan Williams (23) watches the ball go flying after being batted away by Old Dominion senior forward Richard Ross on Saturday at the Super Pit. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

It’s Sunday night and time for the weekly leftovers, where we pick through what went down over the last couple of days, pick out some of the good and bad and hopefully put it all in perspective.

UNT headed into the weekend on a high note with its men’s basketball team on a five-game winning streak. The Mean Green posted a couple of impressive wins in that stretch, notably its 67-64 victory over a good UAB team and a 81-65 win on Thursday over Charlotte, a team that had taken UNT to the cleaners earlier in the year.

UNT came crashing back to earth in a 70-57 loss to Old Dominion. It wasn’t a bad loss. Far from it. ODU is one of the better teams in Conference USA.

The issue is more where UNT is at and the road it faces the rest of the way. The Mean Green fell back to 14-14 overall and 8-8 in C-USA play with a road trip to UTEP and UTSA coming up this week.

UTEP hammered the Mean Green earlier this season and has lost two straight. The Miners lost to Louisiana Tech — arguably the best team in C-USA — and then suffered a horrible loss to Southern Miss after coughing up a 35-8 run to end a game it played without coach Tim Floyd, who was suspended for the game after being tossed in the Miners’ loss to Louisiana Tech.

Bottom line, the Miners are going to be really motivated and in a dogfight for a bye in the C-USA tournament when UNT comes to town.

That game isn’t going to be easy. Neither is a trip to UTSA that will follow. The Roadrunners beat UNT by 10 at home. Granted, UNT appeared to turn the corner during its winning streak. One loss won’t erase a five-game run of success, but there is little doubt it was a setback, especially after UNT coughed up a nine-point lead.

And then there was the matter of what appeared to be some raised voices and an argument in the hallway to UNT’s locker room after the game.

That happens. Sports can be emotional, especially on Senior Night. One just has to wonder about the emotional state of the Mean Green at this point.

The UNT women’s basketball team also suffered through a tough week that concluded with a 70-48 loss to Old Dominion. UNT lost to Charlotte 71-46 on Thursday and is now 4-12 in C-USA play. The Mean Green still have a one-game lead on Rice for the final spot in the conference tournament despite losing its last two games.

Both UNT and Rice have UTEP and UTSA this week. UTSA is 8-7 in league play, while UTEP is 6-9.

UNT could still make the tournament even if it doesn’t win another game and Rice also loses both of its games this week, but it would make things a whole lot easier if the Mean Green win one.

And finally, the UNT softball team had a good weekend. The Mean Green swept Oklahoma State and caught a break when its doubleheader with Oklahoma was rained out. UNT was down 5-0 in the second inning when the game was called off.

UNT is 7-9 on the season and will play at SFA on Wednesday before opening C-USA play at UAB over the weekend.

Late night hoops rewind: Old Dominion 70, UNT 57

North Texas guard Jordan Williams, left, and senior forward Colin Voss slap hands as they run down the court in their final home game at UNT, a 70-57 loss to Old Dominion.

Final: Old Dominion 70, UNT 57

Where UNT stands: UNT fell to 14-14 overall and 8-8 in Conference USA play after seeing its five-game winning streak snapped. UNT remained in a tie for sixth in the league standings, thanks to Middle Tennessee’s triple overtime loss to UAB.

Now what?: UNT’s tough slate of games to end the season will continue when the Mean Green travels to C-USA power UTEP on Tuesday.


Star of the day: Colin Voss shined in the final home game of his two-year UNT career, scoring 16 points to go along with four rebounds. Voss hit six of his 10 shots from the field and all four of his free throws to extend his streak of makes from the line to 23. The senior hit several face-up jumpers that have become his trademark this season. Voss was one of three UNT players who finished in double figures. Maurice Aniefiok added 13 points and T.J. Taylor 12.

Say what?

“You always want to go out with a win on Senior Night, but we didn’t execute toward the end of the game and slipped away. It was very emotional to come out. I wanted to finish strong. We have to move on to the next game and get ready for the tournament.”

– Jordan Williams, UNT senior guard on his final home game with the Mean Green

Our take: UNT’s game against Old Dominion was a big one for the Mean Green for a host of reasons. For one, it was Senior Night, which is always a big one for any program that is saying goodbye to its veteran players. Throw in the fact that UNT was riding a five-game winning streak and climbing its way up the conference standings and it became all the more important. And then there is the fact that UNT has a tough two-game road trip to UTEP and UTSA coming up.

Bottom line, UNT could really have used a win over ODU.

The Mean Green appeared to be well on their way when they ran out to a nine-point lead late in the first half.

The game got away when the Mean Green inexplicably quit scoring for 5:54 early in the second half while ODU went on a 12-0 run that essentially sunk UNT. The Mean Green are all about defense these days, but going six minutes without putting the ball in the hold tends to be a bit of an issue.

Colin Voss (16), Maurice Aniefiok (13) and T.J. Taylor (12) all finished in double figures for UNT.

In a bit of a bummer of a side note, Jordan Williams, one of UNT’s all-time great scorers, finished with just eight points. Williams ranks ninth in school history with 1,476 points and will have a chance to add to that total in UNT’s final two regular season games and the conference tournament.

UNT hasn’t had the team success it hoped for during Williams’c career, but he is clearly a notable player in program history.

It would have been nice to see him go out on a better note in his final home game.

The night ended on a somewhat mysterious note when UNT’s players headed out of the arena. There was shouting audible all the way back out on the Super Pit floor.

Coaches yell. Players get into it. Happens all the time. The difference was I had messages from several UNT fans in attendance asking what happened. I have heard all kinds of arguments with coaches and players.

It becomes something we need to write about when it happens where people can hear it. Here is what happened and what coach Tony Benford had to say.

Hopefully, it won’t end up being a lingering issue. UNT has had a few this year with DeAndre Harris being ejected twice and suspended.

UNT will need to be focused in what will be a two-game road trip coming up that will offer the Mean Green a chance to regroup, while also presenting the danger of a situation where a couple of more losses could send them tumbling in the C-USA standings.

Benford declines comment on post-game incident


North Texas men’s basketball coach Tony Benford declined to comment on what appeared to be a postgame incident following the Mean Green’s loss to Old Dominion at the Super Pit on Saturday.

ODU had just finished off a 70-57 win over UNT that snapped the Mean Green’s five-game winning streak.

UNT players left the court and were headed toward their locker room when shouting could be heard on the Super Pit floor coming from the hallway that leads to the Mean Green’s locker room and the postgame interview area.

UNT officials instructed arena security personnel to not allow anyone to leave through the exit that the Mean Green’s players had just used.

One UNT player was escorted out of the hallway and up the ramp toward an arena exit during the incident.

Several UNT fans inquired about what happened in the hallway after the game due to the fact shouting could be heard in the stands were fans were still seated.

It appeared as if all of UNT”s players and coaches eventually made their way to the locker room.

UNT coach Tony Benford declined comment when asked about the incident in his postgame news conference.

“I don’t have any comment about that,” Benford said when asked about what happened and how if there would be any ramifications going forward.

UNT has experienced issues with players controlling their emotions this season. Sophomore guard DeAndre Harris was ejected from games against UTEP and Charlotte and suspended indefinitely. He was later reinstated.

Emotions ran high in UNT’s loss to ODU in the Mean Green’s final home game of the season. Benford was warned by game officials after arguing that Colin Voss was fouled underneath the basket, but did not receive a technical foul.

UNT fell to 14-14 on the season and 8-8 in Conference USA play following its loss to ODU and will continue its season on Tuesday with a game at UTEP.

UNT-Old Dominion preview/running blog

It’s Senior Day here at the Super Pit for the UNT men’s basketball team, which will take on Old Dominion today.

The Mean Green are in the midst of their best stretch of basketball in the Tony Benford era and have won five straight. Pretty much everything has gone right for UNT in the last couple of weeks.

UNT’s run has lifted the Mean Green (14-13, 8-7) into a tie with Middle Tennessee for sixth in the Conference USA standings entering today’s games.

We’ll get to the conference race.

More importantly, the Mean Green, who will honor a host of really important players today. I can’t say enough about Jordan Williams and what he has done for the program. He is the ninth-leading scorer in school history with 1,468 points and was the foundation piece that helped Johnny Jones, Shawn Forrest and Charlie Leonard reload after taking UNT to just its third NCAA tournament appearance in school history and the second in Jones’ tenure a couple of years ago.

Chris Jones, Tony Mitchell and a host of key players followed. It didn’t work out for the group, but that was a heck of a recruiting haul that Williams helped spark.

Colin Voss has been a good two-year player and T.J. Taylor has also been a key piece, especially this year. Armani Flannigan has also had his moments and will be honored today.

The question now is if UNT can keep its momentum going after winning five straight. ODU is pretty good and is 21-6 overall, including a 10-5 mark in C-USA.

ODU took UNT to the woodshed in the teams’ first meeting this year, winning 61-50. UNT has a good win over UAB during its streak and also posted a dramatic comeback from 21 down to beat Middle Tennessee.

A win today would certainly help UNT.

Unfortunately for the Mean Green, the weather has really cut into the crowd. UNT had plans to bring in 2,000 local elementary students to today’s game, but had the group cancel.

Stay tuned. I will update the blog all night long.

4:30 — In a side note, MTSU and UAB are in double overtime. UNT and MTSU are tied for sixth in the C-USA standings.

Tipoff — UNT starters: TJ Taylor, Jordan Williams, Maurice Aniefiok, Jeremy Combs, Colin Voss.

15:55 — UNT is off to a quick 7-2 start. TJ Taylor and Maruice Aniefiok both have 3s. Trey Freeman just hit a jumper to put ODU on the board. That shot came after a questionable call under the UNT basket. It looked like Colin Voss drew a foul, but he didn’t get the call. Tony Benford was nearly T-ed up and was warned. He probably right that officials missed the call, which is why he didn’t get rung up.

11:50 — UNT is up 13-10 at the second media timeout of the first half. The Mean Green forced a turnover and will have the ball coming out of this timeout. Colin Voss has four points on a couple of very Colin Voss-like faceup jumpers. UNT is playing really well defensively early on.

10:34 — UNT is up 17-10 and has Jeremy Combs headed to the line to try to complete a three-point play. TO ODU.

7:00 — UNT is up 28-20 at the third media timeout of the first half. Maurice Aniefiok has 10 points to lead UNT, which is shooting 57 percent from the field. Colin Voss has six points for UNT. Trey Freeman is the only player scoring consistently for ODU and has nine points.

3:38 — UNT is up 32-23 late in the first half. Maurice Aniefiok has 10 points for UNT. Colin Voss just hit another jumper to put the Mean Green up nine. UNT is shooting 53 percent from the field. Trey Freeman has 12 for ODU and is keeping the Monarchs within striking distance.

1:22 — UNT is up 33-37 and just took its 30-second timeout. ODU had a good look at a 3 that would have made this a one-possession game, but missed it.

Halftime — UNT went cold late in the first half, but held strong on the defensive  end and is up 33-27 at the end of the first half. Maurice Aniefiok has 10 points for UNT, despite going to the bench with 6:24 left in the half with three fouls. ODU finished with a 19-15 edge on the glass. UNT has scored 10 points at the free throw line.

15:58 — Welp, here comes ODU. The Monarchs are on a 9-0 run and have a 36-35 lead. Trey Freeman has ODU’s last four points and stuck a jumper from the free throw line to give the Monarchs their first lead. TO UNT. This will be a quick turnaround before the media timeout.

15:14 — Trey Freeman hit a layup after ODU came up with a steal on UNT’s last possession. The Monarchs are up 38-35. UNT will have the ball here. It’s dead quiet in the Super Pit at the moment. Maurice Aniefiok and Colin Voss have 10 points each. ODU has clamped down on UNT defensively in the early stages of the second half.

11:30 — UNT coughed up a 12-0 run early in the second half and was down by seven after Jordan Baker hit a 3 for ODU. T.J. Taylor answered with a 3 of his own just when UNT needed it. The Monarchs are up 45-41. Colin Voss has 12 points for UNT. ODU has shot the ball really well in the second half, going seven for 11.

7:54 — UNT is down 53-45 and just took a timeout. We will get a media timeout here right after this.

6:25 — UNT is down 53-45 at the media timeout. The Mean Green will be headed to the line, where Colin Voss will have two shots. That’s pretty much two guaranteed points. Colin Voss has 12 points, while Maurice Aniefiok has 10. He hasn’t scored since his quick start in the first half.

3:23 — UNT is down 60-53 and just turned the ball over on its last possession. Maurice Aniefiok hit a big 3 for UNT to get the Mean Green within five, but ODU answered with a beautiful backdoor cut for a layup. The way ODU plays defense could make this tough for UNT to come back from. Colin Voss has 14 for UNT.

2:53 — ODU picked up a steal and called a timeout to hang on to it as UNT dug for it. UNT trails 62-53.

1:08 — UNT is down 64-55 and just called a timeout. Trey Freeman has 22 points for ODU and is killing the Mean Green.

Final — ODU 70, UNT 57. I will be back later.

Chalk talk — Old Dominion at UNT

North Texas guard T.J. Taylor (21) looks for a chance an opening for a pass as Charlotte guard Keyshawn Woods defends during the Mean Green's win over the 49ers on Thursday at the Super Pit. UNT will face Old Dominion today.

Old Dominion at UNT

When: 4:30 p.m.

Where: The Super Pit

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3

Records: UNT 14-13, 8-7 C-USA; Old Dominion 21-6, 10-5 C-USA

Last game: UNT 81, Charlotte 65

Projected UNT starting lineup:

PG: T.J. Taylor, 6-3, Sr. — 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds a game, 52 assists, 23 steals on the season. Taylor scored 11 points, handed out five assists and grabbed four steals in UNT’s win over Charlotte. He has scored in double figures in each of UNT’s last two games.

SG: Maurice Aniefiok, 6-5 Jr. — 7.8 points, 3.5 rebounds a game, 36 assists, 24 steals on the season. Aniefiok scored 15 points in UNT’s win over Charlotte, his first game in double figures since he scored 15 in a win over Rice on Jan. 31. He hit three 3s on the night.

SF: Jordan Williams, 6-6 Sr. — 15.7 points, 5.1 rebounds a game, 57 assists, 42 steals on the season. Williams scored 17 points in UNT’s win over Charlotte and grabbed at least five rebounds for the fifth straight game.

F: Jeremy Combs, 6-7, Fr. — 9.9 points, 6.6 rebounds a game, shooting 55.9 percent from the field, but just 47.2 percent from the free-throw line. Combs scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds in UNT’s win over Charlotte and hit four of his six shots from the field. Williams ranks ninth in UNT history with 1,468 points and will play his final home game today.

F: Colin Voss, 6-7, Sr. — 8.8 points, 6.1 rebounds a game, shooting 47.9 percent from the field and 80.3 percent from the line, 50 assists on the season. Voss scored just four points in UNT’s win over Charlotte and has 12 points in UNT’s last two games after scoring in double figures in four straight games.

Scouting Old Dominion:

Old Dominion posted a couple of impressive wins early in the season, beating VCU and LSU and appeared as if it might challenge for an at-large berth if it doesn’t win the Conference USA tournament, but dropped a series of games in the middle of the season that dented its resume. The Monarchs have since righted the ship and won three straight, including posting an impressive win over Louisiana Tech. ODU is now chasing a first-round bye in the C-USA tournament and will be motivated heading into a showdown between two if the hottest teams in the league.

Who’s hot:

Jordan Williams continued to shine at the end of his senior season, scoring 33 points in UNT’s last two games. Williams scored 17 points in UNT’s win over Charlotte after scoring 16 in a win over Florida International. UNT has only played two games all season in which Williams hasn’t scored in double figures. He has hit 11 of his last 23 shots from the field.

What you need to know:

UNT is on a roll unlike any since the program’s run of success under Johnny Jones, winning five straight games. That run has pushed the Mean Green up the C-USA standings and into a tie for sixth place with Middle Tennessee at 8-7. UNT also eked over the .500 mark overall at 14-13 with its win over Charlotte.

UNT has posted some impressive wins during its streak, including a victory over UAB.

Keeping that run going today will be a challenge against Old Dominion, one of the top teams in C-USA. The Monarchs have won three straight and rolled by the Mean Green 61-50 in the teams’ first meeting this season.

ODU features one of C-USA’s top guards in Trey Freeman, who is averaging 16.5 points a game, and are also one of the top defensive teams in the league. The Monarchs are allowing just 57.0 points a game.

UNT has found a way to pull through in a series of tight games throughout its winning streak, coming from 21 points down in its win over Middle Tennessee to win 57-56. The Mean Green also pulled out a 67-64 win over UAB.

Adding a win over ODU would be a big step for UNT, which will be looking to send a host of seniors out on a high note today, including Jordan Williams. The senior is one of the more productive overall players from a statistical standpoint in UNT history.

Williams ranks ninth in UNT history with 1,468 points and will look to lead the Mean Green to what would be a big win in the final home game for him Colin Voss, T.J. Taylor and Armani Flannigan.

Friday afternoon notes (Junior Day to be rescheduled, et cetera)

UNT has postponed its second junior day, which was to take place Saturday, due to poor weather conditions and will look to reschedule it during spring practice. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

I was assigned to write a post today on UNT traditions, which you can read here, and will have the regularly scheduled Chalk Talk blog up later tonight.

But there are a couple of other items of note I wanted to get to real quick, including the fact that UNT’s junior day that was scheduled for tomorrow has been called off due to the weather.

UNT’s plan is to reschedule the event for some time during spring practice. The Mean Green get going on March 10 with their spring game to follow on April 19.

Conference USA came out with a full list of spring practice and spring game dates for every team in the league today. UNT falls in line with pretty much every other team in the league in terms of its schedule.

Speaking of C-USA, the league hosted its annual indoor track and field championships this week. The UNT women finished fourth and the men fifth. Troy Taylor won the 3,000, Susie Kemper the mile and Shahaf Bareni the high jump for UNT, which generally fared well in the distance events.

UNT assistant Stefanie Slekis is doing a whiz-bang job coaching the distance events, where the Mean Green scored a lot of their points in the conference meet. She also led the Mean Green to a C-USA title in men’s cross country.

One has to wonder how long UNT will be able to hang on to her.


A look at traditions at UNT

North Texas has enjoyed some memorable moments over the last decade, from a win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl at the end of the 2013 season to two trips to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament under former head coach Johnny Jones.

The opening of Apogee Stadium in 2011 is another highlight of the last few years.

During that time, UNT has extended a few traditions and added a few more.

Here is a look at a few of them:

1. Lighting the tower green

One of the longstanding traditions at North Texas is lighting the clock tower on the McConnell Administration Building green following wins. Students gather at the building after victories and watch as the tower is lit, signaling a win for the Mean Green.

2. Boomer, the cannon

Anyone who has been to a UNT football game will recognize this longstanding UNT tradition. The cannon is a replica of a civil war cannon and is maintained by the Talons, a UNT spirit group. The cannon is fired after UNT scores a touchdown and at the beginning of each half since 1970.

3. Singing “Glory to the Green”

UNT athletes and fans join in signing “Glory to the Green” after every game with their hands held up with Eagle Claw talons sign.

Singing glory to the green, singing glory to the white,

For we know our university is striving for the right;

Down the corridor of years, we’ll forget the joys and tears,

But North Texas, North Texas, we love!

4. Players touching Spiriki on their way to the field

North Texas players touch the statue Spiriki, an eagle statue on their way to the field. Touching the statue is a recent UNT tradition.

For more than 50 years, the Geezles were a prominent fraternity on UNT’s campus. The group was dedicated to promoting school spirit and included several athletes, including UNT Hall of Famers C. Dan Smith and legendary Celina coach G.A. Moore. The group died out in the 1970s, but its members remained active supporters of UNT athletics. The group raised money before construction of Apogee Stadium began to create a monument to their organization and paid noted sculptor Kent Ullberg $100,000 to create Spiriki, an eagle statue that sits in the players’ entrance to the field. The name of the statue is an old fraternity saying that is a combination of the world “spirit” and “kee,” the cry of an attacking eagle. UNT’s players touch the statue on their way to the field and pledge to give their best efforts that day.

Late night hoops rewind: UNT 81, Charlotte 65

George Dunham and his family watch a tribute video at halftime of the North Texas men's basketball game against Charlotte. Dunham is retiring as the play-by-play announcer for KNTU after 25 years of calling games for the Mean Green Radio Network. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

Final: UNT 81, Charlotte 65

Where UNT stands: UNT moved over the .500 mark for the first time in 2015, improving to 14-13 overall after winning its fifth straight game. The Mean Green are also over .500 in Conference USA play at 8-7.

Now what?: UNT will host Old Dominion in its home finale on Saturday in a rare afternoon game at 4:30 at the Super Pit.

Star of the day: Jordan Williams continued to shine while finishing with 17 points, part of a solid stat line that saw him hit seven of his 11 shots from the field, including three of his four 3-point attempts. The senior also finished with five rebounds and an assist without turning the ball over in 32 minutes. UNT had four players finish in double figures. DeAndre Harris also finished with 17 points, while Maurice Aniefiok added 15 points and T.J. Taylor 11.

Say what?

“I told George, ‘This is a lot of pressure. We have to win tonight.’ George has been great to me since I have been here. He believes in the green and has always been very supportive. We wanted to send him out on a winning note.”

– Tony Benford, UNT coach on having his team on the floor for George Dunham’s final UNT radio broadcast.

Our take: UNT came through with one of its best performances of the season on a big night in program history, the final broadcast of George Dunham’s 25 years as the Mean Green’s play-by-play voice.

UNT never trailed in its 81-65 win over Charlotte and ended up shooting 54.2 percent (32 of 59) from the field. Four UNT players finished in double figures, including Jordan Williams and DeAndre Harris, who both scored 17 points.

The game marked a dramatic turn from earlier in the season, when the 49ers blasted UNT 73-57 in Charlotte.

The 49ers came into the game as the highest scoring team in Conference USA with an average of 73.7  points a game. UNT set the tone with a 12-2 burst to start the game. The Mean Green pushed their lead to 17 and weathered the storm late in the first half when Charlotte got back within seven.

The win and UNT’s run late in the season were vital because they left the Mean Green in good position for a tough series of three games to close the regular season, beginning with a game at home against Old Dominion on Saturday

UNT is in a tie for sixth place in the C-USA standings with Middle Tennessee and still has games against two of the elite teams in the league in ODU (10-5) and UTEP (11-4) in addition to another tough game at UTSA (7-8).

UNT is in a much better position heading into that series following another confidence-building win over Charlotte.