UNT-Troy running blog

UNT will try to win its final game in the Mean Green Challenge tonight in a game against Troy.

The Mean Green lost to Idaho and Samford in a couple of close games to open the event. UNT (2-2) really needs this one with a tough series of games coming up against Northern Iowa, UTA and a home-and-home with Southern Illinois looming.

Jeremy Combs is averaging 18.5 points a game to lead UNT, which has four players averaging double figures. Troy is 2-3 and has lost three straight, including games against Samford and Idaho this week in the Mean Green Challenge. Both teams beat UNT.

Jordon Varnado and Wesley Person are both averaging 18.0 points a game to lead Troy. Varnado, a 6-6 freshman, is a similar player to Combs.

That should be a matchup to watch.

Stay tuned. I will update the blog all night

15:32 — UNT is down 8-5 at the first media timeout of the first half. The Mean Green ran out to a 5-0 lead, but has given up an 8-0 run. Allante Holston converted a three-point play and leads UNT with three points. UNT has three turnovers.

11:56 — UNT is down 15-9 in the early going here at the Super Pit. The Mean Green were up 5-2 before giving up a 15-2 run. Jeremy Combs hit a pair of free throws to break the run. Combs is a ton better from the line than he used to be. He has four points to lead the Mean Green.

9:45 — UNT is on a 10-0 run and has taken a 17-15 lead. Carrington Ward has four points in the surge. Troy has called a timeout.

7:35 — A game of runs has swung back in Troy’s favor. The Trojans have scored the last four points and are back up 19-18. Allante Holston has five points for UNT. The Mean Green have missed all four of their 3-point attempts.

3:59 — UNT is down 27-24 at the final media timeout of the first half. Troy has scored the last four points and just missed an open look to go up five. Deckie Johnson and Allante Holston both have five points for UNT.

Halftime — UNT went on a 7-0 run late in the first half and is up 33-31 at halftime here at the Super Pit. Deckie Johnson hit a big 3 to spark the Mean Green’s surge. Troy scored the final points of the half after UNT went up four. Allante Holston has nine points and seven rebounds for UNT. The Mean Green have a 26-19 edge on the boards, but have hit just one of their six 3-point attempts.

15:19 — UNT is down 43-38 early in the second half. Wesley Person hit a 3 for Troy before Deckie Johnson answered with one of his own. Troy came right back down and Person hit another on a nifty drop pass. Johnson has 11 for UNT.

12:43 — Troy has pushed its lead to 50-43 and is headed to the line, where it will try to complete a three-point play. The Trojans have scored the last five points. UNT has 15 turnovers, which is not helping its cause much.

11:43 — UNT is down 51-46 with Troy headed to the line after this timeout. DeAndre Harris played just five minutes in the first half and isn’t on the bench. Deckie Johnson has 11 points for UNT.

8:32 — Troy has pulled out to a 62-51 lead in the second half. UNT was down 14 before Carrington Ward hit a 3.

7:26 — UNT is down 67-51 after Wesley Person stuck a 3 and Jeremy Hollimon scored. Troy is on an 11-3 run. Carrington Ward pumped in a 3 for UNT’s only points during Troy’s surge.

6:06 — UNT has pul;ed within 69-57 as we head down the stretch in the second half.

3:34 — UNT is down 77-64 at the final media timeout and is in a world of trouble. Allante Holton has 15 points and Deckie Johnson 11 for UNT. Wesley Person has 24 for Troy and is having a monster game.

Final — Troy 86, UNT 74. Check back later for the rewind.

Wednesday afternoon coach search update

The UNT coaching search continued to work its way toward a conclusion Wednesday afternoon, when Football Scoop, a college football site that specializes in coaching searches and inside info, reported that the school is down to four candidates.

The site confirmed what we reported on the blog earlier — that Baylor offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley are not among the final four coaches UNT is considering.

A source close to Mike Norvell said earlier this week that he is not interested in the position, a fact the Football Scoop report echoed.

Texas offensive coordinator Jay Norvell has been mentioned as a coach UNT could be interested in both this time and in its last coaching search before the school settled on Dan McCarney. He is also not among the four, according to the report.

Texas Tech assistant Mike Jinks, Arizona State assistant Chris Thomsen and Trinity Valley coach Brad Smiley also do not appear to be among the four coaches UNT is interviewing. One candidate in the group was told he wouldn’t hear from UNT until after the Mean Green’s final game.

UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said shortly after parting ways with Dan McCarney that he wanted to find an offensive-minded coach who would appeal to Texas high school players.

Offensive coordinators have been at the top of UNT’s list of potential targets all along.

A few names that have been connected to the UNT job that still make sense are TCU co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie and former Texas quarterback and Houston assistant coach Major Applewhite.

Late night hoops rewind: Samford 74, UNT 72

Final: Samford 74, UNT 72

Where UNT stands: The Mean Green have lost two straight and fell back to the .500 mark after dropping each of their first two games against Division I opponents after opening the season with a pair of runaways over NAIA teams

Now what?: UNT will close out play in the Mean Green Challenge with a 4:30 p.m. game today against Troy.



Star of the day: Jeremy Combs continued to play well while scoring 18 points and pulling down nine rebounds in UNT’s loss to Samford. What might have been even more significant was the fact that Combs went 12-for-16 from the free-throw line where he has struggled throughout his career. The sophomore came in having his just eight of his 21 attempts from the line on the season.

Say what?

“It’s disappointing. We knew some solid teams were coming in. We have to put 40 minutes together. I have told our guys that we have a long season. We have to start with one and that starts tomorrow. We let two get away.”

– Tony Benford, UNT head coach after the Mean Green dropped their second straight game in the Mean Green Challenge

Our take: UNT suffered a second straight tough loss on its home floor when it couldn’t close out Samford. The Mean Green desperately need to at least creep over the .500 mark at the end of the year and set the schedule up to give themselves a chance with five straight home games to open the season.

UNT opened against a pair of NAIA teams with three games against Division I team that aren’t exactly household names to close out that early-season series. UNT took care of the NAIA teams (Jarvis Christian and Texas College), but is back at .500 after losses to Idaho and Samford.

Those losses leave UNT in a tough spot. UNT will face a Troy team that is 3-2 today and then play a Northern Iowa team that knocked off North Carolina, a tough UTA team that has wins over Ohio State and Memphis and then take on Southern Illinois, which is 5-0, in a home-and-home series.

If UNT can’t beat Troy today, it’s hard to see where the Mean Green could pick up their first win over a Division I program this season.


UNT-Samford running blog

UNT will take on Samford tonight here at the Super Pit in its second game of three straight in the Mean Green Challenge.

UNT lost last night to Idaho 65-63 and will look to bounce back. The Mean Green had every opportunity to knock off the Vandals, but were awful down the stretch.

Samford beat Troy last night.

Jeremy Combs is averaging 18.7 points and 10.3 rebounds a game to lead UNT, which has four players averaging double figures. Those averages were inflated a bit by a pair of runaway wins over NAIA teams to open the season.

UNT scored 112 and 110 points in those two games, but managed just 63 last night.

One of the key storylines heading into last night’s game was that freshman center Rickey Brice was battling a sprained ankle and was only cleared to play at the last minute. He is out there and ready to go tonight.

Samford has a trio of players averaging double figures in scoring, including Darius Jones-Gibson, who is putting up 16.0 points a game.

Stay tuned, I will update the blog all night.

15:51 — UNT is up 7-5 at the first media timeout. Jeremy Combs has four points for UNT and Deckie Johnson hit a big 3 for the Mean Green.

11:13 — UNT is up 15-13 at the second media timeout. DeAndre Harris has scored UNT’s last four points.

7:50 — UNT and Samford are all tied up at 19-19 a little past the midway point of the first half. Jeremy Combs and DeAndre Harris both have four points for UNT. Christen Cunningham has nine points for Samford, which is headed to the line.

3:32 — UNT is down 28-25 late in the first half and just caught a break when a Samford player stepped out of bounds after picking up a steal. Jeremy Combs, Deckie Johnson and J-Mychal Reese all have five points for UNT. The Mean Green were down six a few minutes ago.

57.4 — UNT is down 34-27 late in the first half here at the Super Pit. Samford just called its 30 second TO for the first half to set up this possession.

Halftime — UNT is down 37-30 at halftime after an odd sequence to finish out the half. Samford was about to force a shot clock violation at the end of the half, but inexplicably fouled Allante Holston at the end of the clock shooting a desperation 3. Holston hit all three free throws. UNT appeared as if it would come up with a stand on the ensuing possession, but couldn’t grab a loose ball. Samford grabbed it and finished the half with a dunk.

18:41 — UNT has pulled to within 37-32 early in the second half on a Khalil Fuller layup. after not UNT has the ball and just called a timeout to avoid a five-second call being able to get the ball in.

15:44 — UNT is down 46-37 at the first media timeout of the second half. Jeremy Combs is headed to the line. Samford is going to foul Combs instead of giving him any easy looks. The sophomore did hit his last two shots from the line. Combs has eight points and is 4-for-6 from the line. He has been a little bit better from the stripe today.

11:55 — UNT has quickly turned this game around with a  13-0 run. Carrington Ward just hit a 3 to put UNT up 52-48, UNT hit 13 free throws for all of its points during a pretty long stretch in the second half before Allante Holston hit a pair of buckets.

7:51 — Samford has answered UNT’s run with a 6-0 surge and is within 57-56 as we head down the stretch. The Bulldogs have scored their last eight points from the free throw line. Jeremy Combs has 14 points for UNT.

3:17 — UNT is down 65-64 as we head down the stretch. Samford is headed to the line and is in the double bonus. Jeremy Combs has 17 points for UNT. The Mean Green were down 65-62 before J-Mychal Reese hit a nifty reverse layup.

55.3 — UNT is down 70-67 in the final minute. Wyatt Walker just hit a putback for Samford to put the Bulldogs up three. UNT has the ball coming out of this timeout.

24.1 — DeAndre Harris missed a 3. UNT is still down 70-67. Samford has the ball with 15 on the shot clock.

11.2 — UNT is down 71-69 after Deckie Johnson hit a pair of free throws. Johnson managed to lure a Samford player into jumping into him. UNT will have to foul here if it can’t come up with a steal.

Final — UNT falls 74-72. I will be back later with the rewind.

Tuesday afternoon tidbits on the football, basketball fronts

It’s Tuesday afternoon and time for a few quick tidbits on what is going on in the world of UNT athletics.

First off, the UNT strength staff sent out a nice shot of UNT’s senior class after its last lifting session of their careers. UNT will face UTEP in its final game of the season on Saturday.

UNT has a host of seniors who have contributed a lot to the university and the program over the years.

It’s nice to see them recognized.

I will have a story in tomorrow’s paper on UNT’s struggles offensively late in the season that addresses what could be a root cause we haven’t talked a lot about.

And in other news, the UNT men’s basketball team is in action again tonight in its home tournament. The Mean Green blew a nine-point lead late last night in a loss to Idaho and will face a Samford team coming off a big win over Troy.

Samford is 3-1 with its lone loss coming against Louisville.

I will be blogging live. Check back in before the 7:30 p.m. tipoff.

Late night hoops rewind: Idaho 65, UNT 63

Final: Idaho 65, UNT 63

Where UNT stands: UNT lost its first game of the season and fell to 2-1 on the year with both of its wins coming against NAIA teams.

Now what?: The Mean Green will continue their season today in a 7:30 p.m. game against Samford



Star of the day: Jeremy Combs posted double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds. The sophomore was terrific when he had opportunities to score around the basket and also hit a few jumpers. The only problem was he continued to struggle from the free-throw line, where he made just two of his six attempts. Combs missed two key free throws in the final minute when Idaho pulled out the win.

Say what?

“We still had a chance at the end, despite how poorly we played. We have to do the little things to finish games. This is part of the process.”

– Tony Benford, UNT head coach

Our take: UNT was in position to close out its game against Idaho when it led 63-59 with 2:19 left, but didn’t score the rest of the way. The Mean Green were prone to the ill-timed drought last year, a problem they hoped to fix with the addition of a few key recruits in the offseason.

A charge call on J-Mychal Reese that could have also been called a block didn’t help matters, but the Mean Green still had plenty of chances to find a way to close the game out.

UNT built some excitement with a pair of runaways over NAIA tams to open the season. Tonight’s loss might have sapped some of the momentum the Mean Green picked up in those games.

Five things UNT fans should know about UTEP

UTEP kicker Jay Mattox, right, reacts after missing the potential game-winning field goal as the game against Louisiana Tech reached the end moments Saturday. Louisiana Tech's Bryson Abraham, background, signals the kick was not good. Holder Alan Luna is at left. (Victor Calzada/El Paso Times)

UTEP kicker Jay Mattox, right, reacts after missing the potential game-winning field goal as the game against Louisiana Tech reached the end moments Saturday. Louisiana Tech’s Bryson Abraham, background, signals the kick was not good. Holder Alan Luna is at left. (Victor Calzada/El Paso Times)

UNT will close its season on Saturday with a home game against UTEP. The Mean Green are 1-10 and are trying to avoid becoming  just the second team in program history to lose 11 games in a season. Here are five things UNT fans should know about UTEP:

1. UTEP is a little different without running back Aaron Jones

UTEP lost star running back Aaron Jones to an ankle injury early in the season. UNT interim coach Mike Canales said the Miners have been a different team offensively ever since. UTEP was a run-first team last season behind Jones, but is averaging just 144.2 rushing yards a game this year, a total that ranks 11th out of 13 teams in Conference USA.

2. UTEP lost a heart-breaker to Louisiana Tech last week

Jay Mattox misssed a potential game-winning field goal in a 17-15 loss to Louisiana Tech last week. The loss eliminated UTEP from bowl contention. The question now is how the Miners will react in their game against UNT.

3. UTEP has changed quarterbacks

The Minters lost Mack Leftwich for the season due to injury and have turned to Ryan Metz to fill the void. Metz has thrown for 874 yards and six touchdowns this season. UTEP played both Metz and Kavika Johnson last week in its loss to Louisiana Tech.

4. Jones is a playmaker on UTEP’s defense

Sophomore linebacker Alvin Jones has 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks on the season, totals that make him one of the more productive defensive players in Conference USA this season.

5. UTEP has a huge offensive line again this year

One of the reasons UTEP was able to run over UNT last year in El Paso was a huge offensive line that controlled the game in the Miners’ 35-17 win. UTEP rushed for 351 yards and has five starting offensive linemen who weigh at least 300 pounds this year.


UNT-Idaho running blog

UNT will play its first game against a Division I opponent tonight at the Super Pit. Idaho is in town for the Mean Green Challenge.

The Mean Green have run over a pair of over matched Division III opponents so far this season and looked good doing it, which makes sense. They are DIII teams.

We could find out a little more about how good UNT really is tonight. Idaho is 2-1 on the season.

The one bit of news heading into the game is that UNT will be without freshman center Rickey Brice Jr., who is out with a sprained ankle. The Mean Green are a little deeper in the post this year, so that shouldn’t be a killer.

Sophomore forward Jeremy Combs leads UNT with an average of 21 points a game.

Stay tuned. I will update the blog all night.

14:28 — UNT and Idaho are all tied up at 6-6 at the first media timeout. Jeremy Combs has all of UNT points. UNT was up 4-0 before Idaho went on a 6-0 run. Idaho has a 6-2 edge on the glass.

11:44 — UNT is down 11-8 about midway through the first half. Jeremy Combs has six points for the Mean Green. Idaho will have the ball out of this timeout.

7:52 — UNT is down 17-15 at the under-8 timeout. Deckie Johnson hit a big 3 for UNT after it went down five. Idaho has scored seven of its points at the line. Jeremy Combs has six points for UNT, while J-Mychal Reese has four.

3:48 — UNT is down 26-20 late in the first half. Jeremy Combs has seven points for UNT. Idaho is headed to the line out of this timeout. The Mean Green have hit just one of their seven 3-point attempts.

2:25 — UNT is on a 7-0 run and has pulled to within 28-27. Idaho just called a timeout. J-Mychal Reese hit a 3 to spark the run.

Halftime — We are all tied up at 32-32 at halftime of UNT’s game against Idaho. J-Mychal Reese and Jeremy Combs both have nine points for UNT. The Mean Green went on a 12-2 run late in the half to erase an eight-point deficit and appeared as if they might take a lead into halftime. Idaho drew a foul and hit a pair of free throws to tie it up heading into halftime. Idaho scored its last eight points of the half on free throws.

15:59 — Idaho has pulled out to a 39-35 lead early in the second half. The Vandals went on a 7-0 run after UNT took a two-point lead on a Jeremy Combs basket. Combs has 12 points for UNT.

13:05 — Ja’Michael Brown is down for UNT. It looks like he injured his left ankle.

11:42 — UNT is on a 13-0 run and has taken a 51-42 lead midway through the second half. The Mean Green have hit three 3s in this run, the last of them from Deckie Johnson. Idaho just called a timeout. Jeremy Combs has 12 points for UNT.

11:28 — There was a short turnaround between the Idaho timeout and the media timeout. Idaho is headed to the line after this timeout.

8:25 — UNT is up 55-50 and just took a timeout. Jeremy Combs scored UNT’s last points on a put-back dunk. Combs has 14 points and is one of four players in double figures for UNT. Idaho was within three.

5:57 — UNT is up 55-52 and just took a timeout after getting caught in the backcourt to avoid a 10-second call or a turnover. Idaho is working its way back into this.

3:58 — UNT is up 59-54 in a low-scoring game here at the Super Pit. Jeremy Combs has 14 points for the Mean Green. UNT should be able to close this one out.

1:17 — Idaho has come back to take a 64-63 lead on a huge 3 from Perrion Callandret. UNT just called a a timeout.

Final — UNT falls 65-63 to Idaho. The Vandals went just 1-for-8 from the line in the closing seconds, but UNT was called for a charge missed two free throws and came up empty on the rest of its key possessions late.

Canales bids farewell to UNT in press conference



Mike Canales held his final press conference as North Texas’ interim coach today in advance of Saturday’s game against UTEP. Canales has taken over UNT’s program twice after the school fired its head coach.

This time around, UNT asked Canales to coach the team for its final seven games of the season after the dismissal of Dan McCarney. UNT has struggled while winning just one of its six games under Canales while falling to 1-10, but the Mean Green’s longtime offensive coordinator has rallied UNT’s players who have performed better late in the season.

Canales also took over in 2010 after UNT officials fired Todd Dodge. Canales was a candidate to take over as UNT’s coach in 2010, but is expected to leave UNT’s staff after Saturday.

The following is the statement Canales read at the end of his press conference:

“In the face of adversity, the most challenging season of my 30-year career, I look forward to this last week as North Texas’ head coach, not because the season is over, but because I believe we can win and send our seniors out in their last game as winners.

I believe I have represented our university, our program with integrity and character required of this position. I have given so much to this university and received so much in return.

I will always remember the 2013 season, Heart of Dallas Bowl victory and the 35,000 screaming Mean Green fans and seeing the sea of green. That was pretty special. It will go down as one of my favorite coaching memories.

I will also cherish our victory over UTSA this season. There is a rivalry. There is no greater joy for a coach than to see his team celebrate a victory in the most difficult situation.

I will take many things with me from my six years here at North Texas. I have made many friends and I will never forget the support you gave me. I would like to thank the media for being fair and professional in your coverage of the Mean Green football program and Mike Canales. I would also like to thank the Mean Green Nation for your support of our players.

I believe in my heart the Mean Green program will be back stronger than ever in the near future. I look forward to Saturday with a heavy heart, but I can walk away with my head held high for I will forever know how special North Texas and Denton have been in my life and my coaching career.

I wish the Mean Green Nation a happy Thanksgiving and I want you to know how blessed I am to have been a part of this program.”

Thank you.


Chalk talk: Idaho at UNT

Idaho at UNT

When: 7;30 p.m. Monday

Where: Super Pit, Denton

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3, KNTU-FM 88.1

Records: North Texas 2-0, Idaho 2-1

Last game: UNT 110, Texas College 61

Projected UNT starting lineup:

PG: J-Mychal Reese, 6-2, Jr. — Reese is averaging 12.0 points and 6.0 assists a game. He has turned the ball over eight times in two games, but is off to a great start in his first season playing after sitting out last season as a transfer from Texas A&M.

SG: Deckie Johnson, 6-4 Jr. — Johnson is averaging 13.0 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. He has hit four of his 10 shots from behind the 3-point arc.

SF: Allante Holston, 6-7 Fr. — Holston has been remarkably efficient while averaging 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds a game. He has taken just seven shots from the floor this year.

F: Jeremy Combs, 6-7, So. — Combs has stepped up his offensive game this season and is averaging 21.0 points and 8.5 rebounds a game. He is still struggling from the free throw line, where he has hit just six of his 15 attempts, but has been good overall.

F: Khalil Fuller, 6-8, Fr. — Fuller is off to a good start to his freshman season while averaging 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. He has hit seven of his 12 field goal attempts on the year.

Scouting Idaho:

Idaho lost all but one of its starters from last season and has rebuilt around a group of transfers. Victor Sanders, one of Idaho’s few key returning players, is averaging 15.3 points a game for the Vandals, who are allowing just 60.3 points through their first three games.

Who’s hot:

Combs has been terrific through UNT’s first two games. The sophomore has hit 18 of his 26 field goal attempts while posting 24 and 18 points in the Mean Green’s first two games. He is also averaging 8.5 rebounds a game.

What you need to know:

UNT set up its schedule to help ease seven scholarship players who are seeing the floor for the first time into their roles. The Mean Green played a pair of NAIA teams to start and will now see the competition improve with their game against Idaho.

The game is UNT’s second in the Mean Green Challenge and its first of three in three days, a series that also includes games against Samford and Troy. Idaho is a solid team that trounced San Jose State in its opener. The Vandals are a good defensive team that is allowing just 60.3 points a game.

The Mean Green will have a better idea of what they have as a team this season after tonight’s game.