On Friday night, the Mean Green men’s basketball team faced off against the Cameron Aggies in their home opener. The season hasn’t started the way the team and coach Benford would like it to, losing two of their first 3 games (including a loss to division II Alabama-Huntsville). Coach Tony Benford spoke about that loss saying “ it’s on me. It was the one of the worst losses of my career. You can’t overlook anybody”. The Mean Green didn’t overlook Cameron as they put on a great performance in front of their home crowd to win 78-49.
The Mean Green were led by sophomore point guard Chris Jones who came out on fire, going 5-5 in the first 8 minutes of the game and setting the tone for the team. Jones finished the game 8-9 with 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists in just 24 minutes. Jones sat out the second half of last season because of academic ineligibility, but in the 19 games he did play, he averaged 14 points, 4 assists, and almost 5 rebounds per game.
UNT Mean Green senior Jacob Holmen was the second leading scorer with 14 points in just 15 minutes of play. Holmen, a 33% 3 point shooter last year, forced Cameron to try to defend the perimeter by going 3-4 from behind the arc. Coach Benford called him a “great shooter” and said he told Holmen he had a “green light” to shoot if he was open. He only attempted 3-pointers more than 4 times in a game twice last season. Given Holmen’s success shooting the longball, coupled with the Mean Greene losing Brandon Walton (a good 3-point shooter) for the season to a foot injury, don’t be surprised to see Jacob Holmen shooting 3s more often.
Tony Mitchell had 11 points and 7 boards on just 5 shots, Alzee Williams added 12 points, and Jordan Williams had 11 giving the Mean Green 5 players in double figures. Tony only had 5 shots something he did less that 5 times in 22 games last season and something you don’t see players of his caliber doing often. He’s a very unselfish player, maybe to a fault, as you’d like him to take over more games something Benford spoke about after the game:
“I told Tony I want him taking 20 shots a game. He’s the most unselfish superstar I’ve ever been around”.
While the offense was pretty good, the defense was very good especially in the first half. The Mean Green held Cameron to just 22% shooting in the first half and recorded 6 blocks and 3 steals. The defense carried over into the second half, as Cameron didn’t have a FG until 9 minutes in. The Mean Green won the rebounding battle for the first time this season 50-39, something Benford has been working hard on in practice. PJ Hardwick, the freshman PG who’s generously listed at 5-10 and the shortest player on the team grabbed a team high 9 rebounds and 5 points. There were still times when the defense gave up offensive rebounds due to poor position so its something they will more than likely continue to work on in practice but this is a good first step.
The Mean Green head back to the NIT Preseason Tip-Off tournament next week, this time to Charlottesville, VA to face IUPUI and Virginia before returning home on the 28th to play UT-Arlington.