It was senior night, and while the Mean Green had 5 seniors on their roster, only 2 could play against Arkansas State. Everyone knows that the North Texas Mean Green have had an extremely disappointing season. A team that was picked to finish first in the Sun Belt west and possibly in the entire conference ultimately finished the regular season 12-19 overall and just 7-13 in Sun Belt play. But Roger Franklin and Niko Stojiljkovic wanted to win their last game they would ever play at the Super Pit. Roger and Niko were honored before the game for their careers at North Texas along with two other seniors who are done for the season with injuries. Jacob Holmen, the only senior who played his entire career at UNT but lost most of his senior season to concussion issues, and Justin Patton, a transfer from Grambling who missed most of his senior year with knee injuries. Brandon Walton is a senior but his injury occurred in the first game of the season and he received a medical redshirt to come back and play another year, so he will have his senior night next season.
Roger and Niko brought energy to the team and the rest of the players wanted to win not only to get momentum for the conference tournament but also to send the seniors out with a victory. The Mean Green came out fast and started the game on a 10-2 run including 3 pointers from Niko and Jordan Williams. UNT and Arkansas State were tied at 2-2 and that would be the last time that the Mean Green would not have the lead in the game. They led by as many as 12 in the first half and finished with a 34-24 lead going into the break. It was one of the most balanced scoring nights for UNT who have had some games this year with only 4 players scoring, Jordan Williams led the way at the halfway point with 11 points and Tony Mitchell looked to be heading toward a double-double with 6 points and 6 rebounds. Arkansas State is the #2 seed in the conference tournament and top team in the Sun Belt west, but they shot just 21.2% in the first half and were 0-11 from behind the 3-point line.
The Second half continued to go in favor of North Texas as they continued to play well on both offense and defense. Alzee Williams had just 5 points at the half and became very aggressive in the second half scoring 14 points including going 9-11 from the free throw line. Alzee and the rest of the Mean Green scored 40 points in the second half and still held Arkansas State to 25% shooting for the game. The Red Wolves kept hoisting up 3 pointers and finally got one to fall, but finished the game 1-23 from behind the arc, just 4.3%. Jordan Williams finished with 16 points, Chris Jones had 8, and Tony Mitchell did in fact get his double-double scoring 10 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. While Roger Franklin didn’t have a fantastic night he did score 12 points and grab 4 rebounds on senior night. Niko Stojiljkovic had one of his most impressive nights of the season scoring 7 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, and dishing out 4 assists in 22 minutes of play. Overall it was a very good night for the Mean Green who have now won 4 of their last 6 heading into the conference tournament.
Roger Franklin spoke on his emotions after his last game in front of the home crowd saying, “Before the Game I cried, when I went out there I cried…. Its hard to leave home…I grew from a boy to a young man here.” One thing that’s certain is Roger Franklin will be successful at whatever he does; his work ethic and heart will carry over into everything he does on and off the court. It may very well be Tony Mitchell’s last game in front of the home crowd as well as the star sophomore forward will likely go to the NBA draft, but he wanted to win it for the seniors as well saying, “We played hard and with passion, we did it for the seniors.” While his season may be a disspointment for fans if he does leave he will still be the best player to ever suit up for North Texas. He was asked after the game if he would was leaving but said that he had not made a decision yet.
The team will open up the conference tournament on Friday night in Hot Springs Arkansas; they are definitely playing their basketball of the season and could make a splash.