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UNT falls to division leader, remains hopeful
Tim Cato / Senior Staff Writer
The UNT men’s basketball team missed another chance to move up in the Sun Belt Conference standings in a 62-57 loss to the Sun Belt West Division-leading University of Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday.
The Mean Green (14-9, 8-4) opened up the second half with a 15-3 run that gave it a two-point lead. UALR (14-9, 8-4) quickly responded with seven straight points, and although UNT kept it close, the Trojans would not relinquish its lead.
“It’s hard fighting back,” senior forward Roger Franklin said. “Once we had that lead, that’s when we have to step on their neck. Unfortunately, they made some tough plays, some big shots and they took the lead back.”
Franklin, the team captain, did his part with 20 points and 12 rebounds while playing 39 minutes. He was part of a trio of players who scored all but two of the 57 Mean Green points.
Sophomore guard Jordan Williams was also a part of that trio, scoring a game-high 22 points. It was his second-straight 20-point game, and the third of his career.
“I have to step up,” he said. “I’ve got players looking up to me, players out [with injuries]. I’m just playing hard.”
The third player in double-figures was sophomore forward Tony Mitchell, who scored 13 while dealing with constant pressure from the UALR defense.
Senior guard Alzee Williams came off the bench recovering from a knee injury, but was held scoreless. The UNT bench has now scored just two points over the last three games.
“It’s tough to win when you have only three guys scoring,” head coach Tony Benford said. “You have to have balance.”
Although the Mean Green’s home games contained tough losses from the weekend, it is important to realize that it played well against the Sun Belt East and West Division leaders, Benford said.
“We played against two really good teams,” he said. “[UALR] was a crucial game for us to make a run and maybe win the West Division, but we didn’t get it done.”
Despite the losses, the Mean Green is tied for third place in the SBC West with nine games to play.
“We’re at the mindset now that it’s now or never,” Franklin said. “We’ve still got to keep fighting. We can’t drop our heads and get negative right now. As long as the guys keep working, we’ll be okay.”
The Mean Green travels to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette (7-15, 3-8) on Thursday with an opportunity to take sole possession of third place in the West Division. The game tips off at 7 p.m.