North Texas has been one of the biggest disappointments in the country so far this season. Super-forward Tony Mitchell is a likely lottery pick and the Mean Green are stacked with big, athletic guards. But, Mitchell has been disappointing at best, and completely non-existent at times as first year coach Tony Benford has not found the best way to gel this team to this point. Nevertheless, UNT is the most talented team in the league, and they would have a very impressive stretch of hoops in the second half.
They would need that great stretch, because the home-standing Toppers were out of our minds from deep early on, making 5-6 threes in the first five minutes. TJ Price, laboring with a ankle injury, got back to his old self by making all four of his treys. Big, lanky seven-foot center Teeng Akol put up eight threes on the night, which sounds insane, but made 3-8 (37.5%). That’s 9 points on 8 shots. That’s equivalent to shooting 56.3% on 2-point shots. The Tops were 9-19 (47.4%) as a team with the longball and that makes the Big Red 18-40 in our last two games. The hot shooting helped build a sizable 15-point lead at one point.
But, the Mean Green would answer with a glimpse of what they could be, namely, the best team in the Sun Belt. They went on a huge run fueled by relentless attacking of the goal in transition that brought them all the way back and even managed to take a one-point lead in the second half. But, the WKU defense tightened the screws, sophomore F George Fant went to work, and then walk-on freshman guard Percy Blade drilled 6-6 free throws in the last two minutes to keep North Texas at bay for the 70-64 win.
North Texas faces Middle Tennessee on Monday (12/31) while WKU embarks on the Arkansas road swing (UALR and Arkansas State) later next week.