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North Texas coach Jalie Mitchell cheers on her team from the sideline. UNT picked up its first Conference USA win of the season Thursday to end a three-game losing streak.

North Texas came into its Conference USA home opener off one of its tougher stretches in recent memory.

The Mean Green had two games postponed, lost a heartbreaker to Wichita State and were blown out by national power Baylor and C-USA heavyweight Middle Tennessee.

The experience was rough. It was also one UNT appeared to have learned from in an impressive 64-54 win over Marshall on Thursday at the Super Pit.

The Mean Green contained one of Conference USA’s best scorers and made the key plays down the stretch to pull away for a win that has UNT feeling a whole lot better about where it’s at two games into league play.

“We grew from those games,” UNT coach Jalie Mitchell said. “That was what you saw on the floor tonight. We learned from those experiences, what went right and what went wrong. We fixed those areas, including our defense, first and foremost.

“Our energy, intensity, consistency and communication are huge. When we are connected and get stops, we feed on that on the other end.”

That was the case against Marshall, which came in red hot after winning five straight games, including their first three in conference play. The Thundering Herd (8-5, 3-1 C-USA) averaged 73.4 points in those games behind Savannah Wheeler, one of C-USA’s top scorers.

The sophomore guard came into the night averaging 20.9 points per game. UNT (7-5, 1-1) held her to 15 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

“Everyone who guarded Wheeler came in with high hands and high energy,” said Jazion Jackson, one of several guards who spent the night trying to contain her. “We were talking and trying to deter her any way we could. She got some buckets, but we got her to turn the ball over a couple of times. Everybody did a good job on her.”

UNT also dominated the glass, where it finished with a 46-37 rebounding advantage. The Mean Green have pulled down at least 38 rebounds in each of their wins.

“Coach has been on us on rebounding,” Jackson said. “The stat sheet showed that we are capable tonight. If we can consistently do that, we will be a great team.”

UNT certainly looked the part for most of the night against Marshall.

Jackson finished with a game-high 16 points, while fellow guard Quincy Noble added 14.

Each helped the Mean Green go on two double-digit scoring runs that helped UNT take a 34-25 halftime lead. UNT went a 10-0 run in the early going and followed up with 11-0 burst that spanned the first and second quarters while running out to a 21-11 lead.

UNT forward Emma Villas-Gomis scored the last four points of the half after Marshall pulled within five.

The Thundering Herd made multiple runs in the second half. UNT had an answer each time with the last coming after Wheeler hit a 3-pointer to pull Marshall within 58-51.

UNT took a timeout with 3:28 left. Noble scored four points in the closing minutes and the Mean Green pulled away.

UNT held Marshall scoreless for the last 5:32 of the fourth quarter, when the Thundering Herd missed its last eight shots.

Mitchell and her players credited their performance in crunch time to the growth they made while dropping three straight games against tough competition.

“The experience helped us,” Noble said. “We were right there in a lot of games. It was neck and neck. We finally took that experience and put it to use.”

That is exactly the way Mitchell was hoping her team would respond to a tough stretch.

“It’s really great to be back in the win column,” Mitchell said. “It feels good after the month we have had with the ups and downs on and off the court. I was proud of our team and how determined we were after Middle. We had really great practices.

“You could tell we wanted to get here.”

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

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