UNT recruiting update

North Texas coach Grant McCasland, right, speaks with his team during a game at the Super Pit last season.

North Texas came awfully close to pulling off what would have been a milestone upset last week when it took on nationally ranked VCU.

The Mean Green were locked in a tight battle with the Rams in the closing minutes before falling 59-56.

UNT will get a second chance to make a bit of splash national level on Tuesday, when the Mean Green travel to Arkansas.

The Razorbacks aren’t nationally ranked but are members of the SEC and have a little added cachet after Eric Musselman took over the program in the offseason. The former NBA head coach spent the last four seasons at Nevada and won at least 24 games in each of his seasons with the Wolfpack.

Arkansas hammered Rice 91-43 in its season opener. The Owls are also members of Conference USA.

The Mean Green enter the second game of a rough road trip feeling like they let an opportunity get away.

UNT trailed VCU twice by a point in the last two minutes after DJ Draper and Umoja Gibson hit 3s. VCU answered each time and hung on for the win when De’Riante Jenkins hit a pair of free throws with nine seconds left.

“We felt like we gave ourselves a chance to win and we’re extremely disappointed that we didn’t,” UNT coach Grant McCasland said after the game. “I was proud of our guys’ fight in the second half.”

UNT trailed by 10 at the break before rallying and will look to build on that performance against Arkansas behind a balanced attack that features five players averaging at least 7.0 points per game.

Junior forward Zachary Simmons leads UNT with an average of 12.0 points per game. Junior forward Thomas Bell is adding 11.0 points in his first season with the Mean Green, while Draper is averaging 10.5.

Gibson took over as UNT’s point guard in the second half against VCU after junior college transfer Javion Hamlet struggled and finished with seven points and five assists.

UNT will need another solid effort across the board in its game against the high-scoring Hogs. Mason Jones, a junior guard from DeSoto, scored 32 points in Arkansas’ season opener.

Jones was named the SEC Player of the Week on Monday.

UNT will be looking for a landmark win in its game at Arkansas. The Razorbacks are 14-0 against the Mean Green in the history of the series.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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