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Men’s basketball falls short of Sun Belt upset
Tim Cato / Senior Staff Writer
Although UNT flirted with the idea of a comeback in the fourth quarter, it could not close the gap in a 72-64 loss with the Sun Belt-leading Middle Tennessee State University.
It’s been a long time since the preseason, where each was named unanimous preseason selections as the Sun Belt Conference West and East Division champions.
Fast forward to present day, and Thursday’s defeat dropped UNT (8-13) to 3-7 in conference, including a second loss to Middle Tennessee (17-4, 9-1) earlier in the season.
With two starters already out for the season, the Mean Green played Thursday’s game missing two more – junior guard Alzee Williams out with a sprain of his medial collateral ligament and senior forward Jacob Holmen out with a concussion.
“We’re not worried if we have 12 guys or seven guys or if we only have five,” senior forward Roger Franklin said. ”This team is creating an identity that we’re going to keep fighting until the end.”
In a low-scoring first half, UNT held Middle Tennessee to 28 points and forced 11 turnovers. However, it scored just 23 against a Middle Tennessee defense that is best in the Sun Belt in points allowed and opposing field goal percentage.
“I’d like to give Middle Tennessee credit,” head coach Tony Benford said. “I think they’re an NCAA tournament team, if you look at their resume.”
As for the Mean Green, its 19 turnovers and mental mistakes were too much to overcome.
“In the end, we shouldn’t have taken some threes we took, and should have kept taking it to the basket,” said senior guard Jordan Williams, who played 38 minutes and led the team in scoring with 20.
Another second chance
The Mean Green will get its chance against the University of Arkansas-Little Rock (12-9, 6-4) on Saturday. They have a three-game lead over UNT in the Sun Belt West Division, meaning the game is important for the Mean Green’s hopes of climbing back into the postseason.
“Down the stretch and down towards the end we could have made better plays, but this team is a fighting team,” he said. “The guys who are accountable and playing are going to keep fighting. This team is now battle-tested so we’re ready to start making a run deep into conference.”
Earlier this year, UNT lost to UALR on the road, 67-53. The rematch tips off at 7 p.m. in the Super Pit.