The North Texas Mean Green returned home after the Thanksgiving break and their trip to Charlottesville, VA for the NIT Preseason Tip Off. Last week they beat IUPUI 80-66, but then they lost 80-64 to Virginia to finish the tournament 2-2. In their second home game of the season, almost 5,000 fans came out to watch them play rival UT-Arlington. The Mean Green were looking to avenge a loss they took to the Mavericks on UTA’s home court last season.
The night started off with questions regarding star forward Tony Mitchell who was not in the starting lineup for the first time this season with no explanation. We found out after the game that Mitchell was held out due to a violation of team rules. Despite not starting, it was only a few minutes before Coach Benford put him in the game. The Mean Green offense started off great: Alzee Williams had 8 points in the first 4 minutes, but finished with just 12 after his hot start.
The entire Mean Green offense seemed to mimic Alzee’s night. They were up by 8 and playing good basketball with 9:06 left in the first half, but it went downhill from there. The UNT Mean Green hit just 6 shots in the final 29 minutes (the rest of the game). In the second half, the Mean Green shot a historically bad 16.1% from the field. The dismal shooting by the Mean Green helped the Mavericks pull away for a 72-59 win.
The Mavericks played a matchup zone defense that had the Mean Green offense settling for outside shots all night, and none of the Mean Green players could consistently sink the long shots. After the game, Mean Green Head Coach Tony Benford praised the Mavericks’ defense:
“Defensively, they were really good. There is a reason they are leading the country in FG percentage defense. They were packing it in, we have to do a better job cutting and finding other options in the offense”
Throughout the second half, the Mavericks were able to prevent the Mean Green from getting off any quick shots; on almost every possession, UNT was being pushed to the end of the shot clock without finding a good option. The Mean Green have struggled all season in the half court; a lot of their scoring has come from making stops on defense and then pushing the ball in transition. Benford said he was a little concerned that the players aren’t picking up the offense this early in the season or knocking down their shots. The Mean Green are shooting just 25% from the 3-point line so far this season after hitting 32% of those shots last year. Alzee Williams commented on the offensive struggles saying:
“We need to execute in the half court game. Last year we were in more of a system. This year we have more freedom, we are just trying to get used to it right now.”
Senior Roger Franklin left it all on the court before he fouled out late in the game. Franklin finished with 11 points and 9 rebounds, but he was also very vocal tying to get the Mean Green to exert more energy on the court. Alzee Williams led the team with 14 points, followed by Tony Mitchell’s 12 points and 9 rebounds; only 3 UNT Mean Green players scored in double figures.
The defense wasn’t fantastic either; the Mean Green gave up 43 points in transition stemming from so many missed shots and the resulting fast breaks by UTA.
The Mean Green play again at home this Saturday at 7pm against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns in their first Sun Belt conference game of the season.