The North Texas Mean Green (6-9,1-3) have had a tough season this year. UNT was 0-3 in conference play going into last nights game against Sun Belt Conference foes the Troy Trojans. The Mean Green recently lost their starting point guard, Chris Jones, so the way they responded against a conference opponent could set the tone for how they perform for the rest of the season.
Neither the Trojans nor the Mean Green shot the ball well to start the game, but UNT still managed to start the game off on 13-0 run that included Tony Mitchell getting himself involved offensively early by scoring 5 of those 13 points.
Mitchell and the rest of the Mean Green team continued playing decent basketball, but Troy made enough shots to keep themselves in the game and force UNT to stay focused. At the end of the 1st half, the Mean Green had maintained their 10 point lead over the Trojans, their largest in the game, 39-29.
One of the biggest sparks for the Mean Green came from Niko Stojiljkovic, a player who had played pretty sparingly most of the season. In the 23 minutes that Stojilkovic played before this game, he has scored 6 points, made 2 assists, and won 3 boards. Yet it was Stojiljkovic who set the tone for the team with his enthusiasm and effort by playing his game with hustle. When he drew a charging foul on the Trojans in the first half, his effort visibly energized the Mean Green defense.
The Mean Green managed to stay at least 10 points ahead of the Trojans for the rest of the game. Every Mean Green player (with the exception of Austin Mitchell who played less than a minute) scored. Jordan Williams scored 12 points, and both Roger Franklin and Alzee Williams helped out with 10 points. Jordan Williams has scored in double figures in the last 4 games, stepping into a role the Mean Green desperately needed filled.
The most important aspect of the game was the intensity that the Mean Green brought on both ends of the court. Too many times this season they have come out and not played hard or hustled. On Thursday night against the Troy Trojans, the Mean Green did something they have not done all year: every player on the North Texas squad played with effort, hustle, and intensity on both offense and defense.
Mean Green Tony Mitchell played like the player that UNT needs him to be if they are going to have a successful offense. Mitchell scored 29 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and he had 4 blocks. The game plan most of the night was simple, but it worked: the Mean Green had Tony Mitchell post up, got him the ball, and let him shoot to get a bucket or a foul. Mitchell did what he had to do with Chris Jones out; he took over the game and got the win for his team. I haven’t been very enthused by his play this season, but Mitchell may change my mind (and the minds of NBA scouts) if he can continue to play as dominantly as he did against the Trojans.
Former starting point guard Chris Jones is out indefinitely after breaking his foot against Western Kentucky. He joined Brandon Walton as North Texas guards who have no hope of being physically healthy enough to play this season.
In Jones’ absence, Freshman P.J. Hardwick stepped up and played very well in the first start of his career. While his stat-line wont show it (he recorded just 2 points and 7 assists), he did exactly what the Mean Green needed him to do for them to win the game: he controlled the ball when North Texas was on offense and he distributed the ball to his teammates to effectively run their offensive scheme.
Mean Green Senior Jacob Holmen was out with a foot injury, but he should be back next week. Forward Keith Coleman was out due to breaking team rules, which was the second time this season that he’s missed entire game due to infractions. The Mean Green have a depleted basketball squad right now, so they need all their players to be at their best both on and off the court if they want to continue to improve their recent success. The win against Troy is a great start, the Mean Green play Louisiana Monroe on Saturday night.