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UNT falls to last in conference with road loss
Ryne Gannoe / Senior Staff Writer
Although sophomore forward Tony Mitchell’s four blocks made him UNT’s all-time leading shot blocker, he contributed no points in the men’s basketball team’s 70-64 loss to Florida International University.
This was the first time in Mitchell’s college career he has been held scoreless.
The loss drops the Mean Green (7-12, 2-6) into last place in the Sun Belt West Division.
Senior forward Roger Franklin led the UNT effort with a career-high 29 points.
“I can’t say enough about Roger’s effort,” head coach Tony Benford said. “He kept us in the game.”
Another bright spot for the Mean Green was a career-high 13-point scoring performance from senior forward Niko Stojiljkovic.
Stojiljkovic’s off-the-bench contribution will be important to the injury-stricken team going forward.
“We’re finally starting to see the ‘Niko’ we know from practice,” Franklin said. “We’re going to need him and the other players coming in to step up going down the stretch.”
After the Mean Green led by as much as eight early in the first half, FIU (9-8, 4-4) closed out the second half with an 18-2 scoring run, stretching the score to 36-24 in favor of the Panthers.
FIU dug UNT’s grave as deep as 18 points early in the second half.
The Mean Green comeback effort couldn’t overcome a season-high 23 turnovers that resulted in 33 FIU points.
UNT played solid defense, but the team only took 43 shots compared to FIU’s 64 shots.
Benford said he was disappointed in how his team handled the Panthers’ pressure defense. He said sophomore forward Tony Mitchell needed to take more shots and get more involved.
“If Tony would have given us something tonight, I think we would have won the game,” Benford said.
Searching for a road win
UNT hopes to end its Florida road trip on a high note against Florida Atlantic University (10-9, 5-3) at 6 p.m. Saturday in Boca Raton.
Junior guard Alzee Williams is hoping to avenge the 86-81 loss from last season.
“I really want to get Florida Atlantic back from last year,” Williams said. “We had a big lead and they came back in double overtime.”
In order to do so, the Mean Green will have to slow down FAU senior guard Greg Gantt, who leads the Sun Belt in scoring with 22.4 points per game.
The Owls are in second in the Sun Belt East and lead the league in three-point shooting percentage and free-throw shooting.