Late-night hoops rewind — UNT 62, Creighton 58

Final: UNT 62, Creighton 58

Where UNT stands: The Mean Green improved to 6-4 after their biggest win of the season and arguably the last two years.

Now what?: UNT will host Prairie View A&M on Tuesday in its final game before taking a few days off before Christmas.

Voss

Star of the day: Colin Voss scored 16 points and added eight rebounds to lead UNT in its win over Creighton. Voss hit six of his nine shots from the field and all four of his free throws. The senior hit two key jumpers in the second half when the Bluejays were mounting a late charge. Those four points loomed large when Creighton pulled to within two in the closing moments of the second half.

Say what?

“This was a real big win. I have been waiting to get these guys back. We didn’t get to schedule them last year. I wanted to get them, especially since it was at home.”

– Jordan Williams, UNT senior guard and the last remaining member of the Mean Green who played in a loss to Creighton to open the season two years ago.

Our take: Make no mistake about it, that was a huge win for UNT. Creighton has a lot of talent and will win a lot of games this season. The Bluejays already have wins over Oklahoma and Nebraska on their resume.

UNT played well early, built a huge lead and then hung on for dear life. Creighton had four looks from behind the arc to tie it in the final minute, but couldn’t get any of them to drop.

UNT got a big game from Jordan Williams in addition to Voss. The senior finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.

The Mean Green’s zone defense was effective and was another key to the win. Creighton got good looks most of the day, but they couldn’t get 3s to drop, especially in the first half. The Bluejays finished 10-of-39 from 3-point range and didn’t get a lot of point-blank shots. When Creighton got inside of UNT’s zone, the shots that were there were contested.

The hope now is that UNT can build on a signature win. The Mean Green have what amounts to a tuneup game before Christmas against Prairie View A&M. UNT then has to turn around and travel to Texas Tech before opening Conference USA play at home against UTEP, which is expected to be one of the top contenders for the league title.

UNT will head into that game with a little more confidence after beating Creighton.

UNT recruit tweets that he has backed off UNT commitment

There is often more to these stories. There are two sides to it. UNT has backed away from some players who were on their board. Some recruits who were on the board have decided to look at other options.

SMU recently entered the picture for Eli Howard. Check back for more.

Here is our blog post from when he committed.

UNT-Creighton running blog

UNT is about to tip off its game against Creighton here at the Super Pit in a rare Sunday game. We are here to do a little blogging along the way.

The fans are starting to filter in. The big question is if Creighton fans will outnumber UNT fans. It looks like it is going to be close.

Which brings us to the game, where the question is — Will it be close?

Creighton is good. Really good.

This was a highly anticipated game a couple of years ago, when UNT was coming off its sixth straight winning season, a run that included two NCAA bids and five 20-win seasons. Creighton whacked UNT 71-51 and UNT was never the same, which was the topic of our advance in today’s paper.

The other interesting aspect of this one is that Jordan Williams was high school teammates with Creighton’s star player Austin Chatman.

As far as the game goes, UNT is going to be out-manned inside, where Creighton has legit Big East size. It will interesting to see how Jeremy Combs, UNT’s emerging freshman forward handles playing a host of guys who are a whole lot bigger than he is.

Creighton also has a bunch of good guards who can shoot it, which could pose problems for UNT. The Mean Green have gone to a zone almost exclusively this year.

Stay tuned.

Tipoff — It looks like Maurice Aniefiok will play today. That will help matters.

Tipoff II — There’s a group of Creighton fans behind me with an Austin No. 1 sign.

Tipoff III — Maurice Anfiok and Jeremy Combs are starting.

15:50 — UNT is up 6-3 at the first media timeout of the first half. UNT has six rebounds already. Creighton is getting some good looks against UNT’s zone, but can’t get anything to fall. The Bluejays are 1-for-6 from the field.

10:45 — UNT is up 14-5 as we head toward the halfway point of the first half. UNT is playing really well defensively. Creighton is 2-for-12 from the field.

10:09 — UNT is still up 14-5 at the second media timeout of the first half. Jordan Williams has six points for UNT. Creighton is 2-for-13 from the field and 1-for-9 from 3-point range. Jordan Williams has six points for UNT.

7:31 — UNT has a 17-10 lead as we get into the later parts of the first half. UNT has been playing well defensively. Creighton can’t get anything to drop. Jordan Williams has six points for UNT. The Bluejays are 2-for-11 from 3-point range.

3:39 — UNT is starting to make this look like a blowout. Maurice Aniefiok has hit a couple of 3s and the Mean Green are up 25-12. Creighton is 2-for-14 from 3-point range and 5-for-20 from the field. Aniefiok has eight points for UNT.

Halftime — We have reached halftime with UNT up 35-18. That was one of the best halves UNT has played in a long time. Maurice Aniefiok and Colin Voss both have eight points for UNT. Creighton had a terrible half shooting. UNT’s defense had something to do with that. The Bluejays shot 29.2 percent from the field and hit just two of their 14 3-point attempts.

19:18 — Creighton has come out of the gate with three quick points to pull within 35-21. UNT has taken a quick timeout. UNT turned it over on one of its early possession., Creighton missed a free throw, which helped UNT’s cause there a bit.

15:56 — UNT has pushed its lead to 46-24 early in the second half and is headed to the line for a pair of free throws. Colin Voss has 12 points and Jordan Williams 11 for UNT. Creighton isn’t getting anything good against UNT’s defense.

13:30 — Creighton has scored five straight to cut what was a 25-point deficit to 51-29.

11:40 — Creighton has scored seven straight. UNT is up 51-31. It would take an epic collapse for UNT to let this get away. Colin Voss has 12 points and Jordan Williams 11 for UNT. Creighton is 4-for-22 from 3-point range.

7:57 — Creighton went on a 13-0 run and is now within 53-39. UNT is still in great position. Creighton needs everything to fall at this point and missed a couple of shots that would have made things more interesting. Colin Voss has 14 points and Jordan Williams 11 for UNT.

3:53 — UNT is up 55-44 at the final media timeout. The Mean Green have made a couple of key stops late when it looked like Creighton might grab control of the game. Colin Voss has 16 points for UNT and has made a series of huge shots for the Mean Green.

3:28 — Creighton just hit a 3 from the corner after DeAndre Harris was called for a charge. It’s 55-47 UNT.

2:44 — It’s 57-49 UNT. TJ Taylor was just called for traveling. Officials are looking at video to see if he threw an elbow.

1:11 — UNT is hanging on to a 57-55 lead after Creighton hit back-to-back 3s, including one off a turnover.

24.5 — TJ Taylor hit one of two free throws to put UNT up 3. Creighton missed two from deep on its last possession. UNT ball. UNT 58-55.

24.5 — UNT just turned the ball over when Maurice Aniefiok stepped over the baseline.

24.5 — Creighton called a timeout after seeing how UNT set up defensively.

12.7 — Creighton missed a corner 3 and TJ Taylor hit a pair of free throws. UNT is going to pull this out. This will be arguably the Mean Green’s biggest win of the Tony Benford era, up there with a win at Texas Tech last year.

Final — UNT hangs on 62-58.

14:59 women’s game — UNT is down 5-2 at the first media timeout of the first half. Acheil Tac has UNT’s only bucket so far.

13:11 — UTA is up 9-2. UNT has called a timeout. UNT has missed all nine of its shots from the field.

11:50 — UNT has pulled to within 9-7 at the second media timeout of the first half. Kasiney Williams hit a big 3 to get UNT going.

3:31 — UNT is down 23-13 at the final media timeout of the first half. The Mean Green are still struggling offensively.

15:41 second half — UNT is down 28-20 in the second half. I ducked out there to work on my UNT-Creighton men’s story.

13:17 — Kasiney Williams just hit a 3 to pull UNT to within 30-23.

11:51 — UNT is down 33-25 as we head toward the halfway point of the second half. Williams has eight points for UNT.

6:50 — UNT has closed to within 35-28 in the second half here at the Super Pit. Briesha Wynn has nine points for the Mean Green.

1:26 — UNT is down 41-35 and just called a timeout.

Final — UNT falls to UTA 46-38. I will be back later.

Sounds like UNT might be out of the running for Mike Rodrigez

Rodriguez

Earlier this year, we followed the story of Mike Rodriguez, a point guard out of Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College UNT was recruiting pretty heavily.

Rodriguez has a good relationship with UNT assistant David Anwar.

The guys at Gold and Green News, a website that covers Colorado State, had an update on Rodriguez today.

The sophomore is having a monster season. He’s averaging 23.3 points, 6.7 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. The story says that Cal-State Fullerton, Colorado State, East Tennessee State and Manhattan are all involved and now Missouri and Utah State could be getting into the race for his commitment.

In a side note, Ross Hodge is at Colorado State these days. Hodge was former UNT assistant coach Bill Foy’s right-hand man at Paris Junior College. Hodge promoted to head coach at Paris after Foy came to UNT. Hodge then coached at Midland College before joining the staff at Southern Miss.

Let’s just say Hodge knows his way around the JUCO gyms in Texas.

UNT has Texas A&M transfer J-Mychal Reese sitting out this year and and high school point guard Ja’Michael Brown coming in next year.

Landing that duo appears to have filled UNT’s point guard need.

Rodriguez appears to be headed elsewhere and could land at a major college program or a top mid-major, quite possibly CSU.

Some good news on the hoops front — UNT did well academically

Benford

We are counting down the hours before UNT faces Creighton in a pretty big nonconference game. But before we get to that, I wanted to take time out to point out some good news that Tony Benford shared late this week.

UNT did really well academically in the first semester. Everyone is eligible and doing well.

All of UNT’s seniors are on track to graduate in May, as will junior guard Maurice Aniefiok.

J-Mychal Reese and Carrington Ward and are on track to graduate early and might start on their masters.

“Everyone did a great job,” Benford said. “Our people in academics need to be commended on the job that they are doing.”

A lot of times we only pay attention to what goes on in academics when it comes to athletics when things go wrong.

It’s important to note when college athletes do well academically. That has been the case this semester in basketball.

And that’s how the story ends … Jefferson to Texas

There was a little bit of hubbub last spring when on of the top players in the country swung by one of UNT’s spring practice sessions. Malik Jefferson, a linebacker out of Mesquite Poteet hung out for a while and watched drills.

It was a great sign for UNT that he was interested enough to show up.

He committed to Texas this week.

And in case you missed it, the last round of state titles games in high school football were today.

Movement on the high school front should pick up after the holidays when players turn their attention to recruiting.

Chalk talk — Creighton at UNT

Creighton at UNT

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Where: Super Pit

Radio: KNTU-FM 88.1

Records: UNT 5-4, Creighton 9-3

Projected UNT starting lineup:

PG: T.J. Taylor, 6-3 Sr. — 9.3 points, 4.0 rebounds a game, 16 assists, shooting 50 percent from the field. Finished with seven points and four assists in a win over Langston after missing UNT’s loss to Stephen F. Austin due to injury.

SF: Jordan Williams, 6-6 Sr. — 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds a game, 23 assists, 17 steals on the season. Williams enters Sunday’s game off one of his best performances of the year against Langston that included 20 points, 11 rebounds and three steals.

SG: Maurice Aniefiok, 6-5 Jr. — 8.1 points, 2.9 rebounds a game, shooting 47.8 percent from 3-point range, 18 assists, nine steals on the season. Aniefiok missed UNT’s game against Langston with a knee injury, but is expected to be ready to play today.

F: Jeremy Combs, 6-7, Fr. — 10.3 points, 6.3 rebounds a game. Combs is shooting 63.8 percent from the field, but only 48.7 percent from the free-throw line. The freshman moved back into the starting lineup in UNT’s win over Langston and scored 25 points. His last start came in UNT’s third game of the season.

F: Colin Voss, 6-7, Sr. — 6.6 points, 6.3 rebounds a game, shooting 40.4 percent from the field. Voss broke out of a slump by scoring 10 points against Langston after managing just 14 points in the previous three games combined

Scouting Creighton:

Creighton won its first five games of the season, upset Oklahoma and was nationally ranked before losing a couple of tough games to Ole Miss and Tulsa that knocked the Bluejays out of the Top 25. Creighton is led by Austin Chatman, who played at The Colony with UNT guard Jordan Williams. Chatman is averaging 14.3 points a game, while fellow guard Isaiah Zierden is adding 12.3 points a game. UNT coach Tony Benford called Chatman one of the top 10 point guards in the country and the best player at the position the Mean Green will face all season.

Who’s hot:

Combs responded to be reinserted into the starting lineup for the first time since early in the season with the best game of his career in the Mean Green’s win over Langston. Combs scored 25 points and hit 11 of his 15 shots. He had 15 points in a loss to Oklahoma State, giving him double figures in two of UNT’s last three games. UNT is already pushing him for Freshman of the Year honors in Conference USA.

What you need to know:

UNT is 5-4, but could really use a quality win, especially heading into C-USA play. The Mean Green’s best win, according to ESPN’s RPI rankings came against Delaware State, which was sitting at 205 on Saturday afternoon.

After a couple of tough seasons, a quality win would also help UNT rebuild enthusiasm and confidence in the direction of the program.

Creighton isn’t the team it was a few years ago, but it is still a quality Big East team. A win over the Bluejays would be huge for the Mean Green.

UNT’s chances could come down to if it can contain Chatman and Zierden and be effective defensively in the zone defense that has become a staple of its approach. The Mean Green have been effective in it, but they haven’t faced a team that is as well-equipped to break it down as Creighton.

The Bluejays have shooters who can knock down open 3s.

UNT will need its top players to come through and have solid games offensively. Williams has been consistent all year and will play a key role. Combs has come on and will also be critical. He’s undersized and will have a challenging matchup with Creighton and 6-11 forward Will Artino.

UNT picks up commitment from Horn OL Elex Woodworth

Mesquite Horn offensive lineman Elex Woodworth committed to UNT tonight.

Woodworth is a 6-foot-4, 262-pound tackle. I haven’t gotten in touch with him yet, but here are his Hudl highlights.

UNT has a number of key offensive linemen graduating this year. Woodworth will be part of UNT’s plan to reload.

Woodworth was a first-team All-District 10-6A selection as a senior. That is a solid district with the likes of Highland Park.

Check back for more later.

Friday night football, hoops notes

UNT recruit Jerbrell Lipscomb came up with a few key plays that helped Navasota pull out a 42-35 double-overtime win over Argyle in the Class 4A Division I state title game (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

It’s state title game weekend in high school football, and that brings us to some Friday night notes.

One of the games of interest locally was the Argyle-Navasota. Argyle is right up the road and has a couple of UNT targets on the roster, but more importantly, Mean Green commit Jerbrell Lipscomb is one of Navasota’s top players.

Lipscomb came up with a huge interception and broke up a pass in the end zone late to help his team pull out a 42-35 win.

We wrote a story about Lipscomb when he committed over the summer.

Landing the do-it-all athlete looks like a pretty good move by UNT at this point. He looked good on the big stage of the state title game.

McNeese State is the only other team that has offered Lipscomb other than UNT. The Mean Green will have to hope it stays that way.

In other news, most of our readers likely saw this by now, but Dan McCarney was on ESPN’s college football page as the lead photo above a story on the importance of the smaller bowls.

I completely agree with the point the story makes.

On the hoops front, UNT will face Creighton on Sunday. The Bluejays whacked UTPA tonight. That is going to be a tough game for the Mean Green.

Check back on the blog, I have a Q&A on the Bluejays that was posted earlier in the day.

UNT target Darreon Jackson to Texas Tech

UNT target Darreon Jackson, a safety out of Kansas who grew up in Texas, has committed to Texas Tech.

We talked to him over the summer for our UNT recruiting target series.

His stock continued to rise over the last few months.