North Texas was packed and ready to head out for a little excursion over the Thanksgiving holiday long before it hit the court for a final tuneup on Tuesday night.
The way UNT rolled through a 76-46 win over Paul Quinn at the Super Pit made the Mean Green feel a whole lot better about where they stand heading into what will be one of their bigger tests of the regular season.
UNT will take on San Jose State on Friday and will play on Saturday and Sunday as well in the Baha Mar Hoops Nassau Championship in the Bahamas.
“This will be a good test for us,” UNT coach Grant McCasland said. “There are teams that are picked to win their leagues in the tournament. It’s big to find a way to play through fatigue. These games will prepare us for conference play.”
UNT (3-1) has been tested quite a bit already. The Mean Green played a national power in St. Mary’s and also took on Fresno State at home.
UNT split those games and looked a whole lot better in their win over Fresno State that it did while being blown out by 30 at St. Mary’s.
Paul Quinn, an NAIA program, didn’t offer nearly as big of a challenge as those schools. What a game against the Tigers (1-1) did offer was a chance for UNT to get more of its players time on the floor and allow two of its stars a chance to continue rounding into form after battling back from knee injuries.
Tylor Perry scored 10 points in his second game back after suffering a knee injury in the preseason. Rubin Jones was also in his second game back after offseason knee surgery and chipped in eight points and two assists.
“We have grown,” Perry said. “Rubin and I have gotten back into the groove. We have come together as a team but still have a long way to go on both ends of the ball. We have to continue to grow.”
UNT knows what it has in Perry and Jones. What has been even more important for the Mean Green is the growth of the rest of its roster.
UNT saw some positive signs in that regard in its win over Paul Quinn. Abou Ousmane, another one of the Mean Green’s core players, led the Mean Green with 17 points.
What was encouraging was the way the rest of UNT’s players got involved. Jayden Martinez continued to play well off the bench and finished with 10 points. The New Hampshire transfer has scored in double figures in three straight games.
Sophomore guard Matthew Stone scored six points off the bench and seldom used transfer forward Moulaye Sissoko finally got into the act. Sissoko scored the first eight points of his UNT career.
“My teammates have given me some confidence,” Stone said. “They have told me to keep my head up and keep working. Seeing a couple fall makes me a little more comfortable and helps me contribute.”
UNT had 10 players score overall. That balance helped UNT break open what was a surprisingly close game early with a 15-3 run.
Jones hit a 3 to open the run that Kai Huntsberry capped with a jumper that put the Mean Green up 26-14.
Paul Quinn was within 36-28 late in the first half before Perry hit a 3 to put UNT up 39-28 at halftime. The Mean Green quickly pulled away in the second half.
“It was a good step tonight,” Perry said. “When we get to conference, teams are going to key in on some of our returners. Me, Abou and Rubin are going to get a lot of attention. We need guys to have confidence in themselves and know that we have confidence in them.
“We need everyone. It’s good that people are getting better and are coming out of their shells.”
UNT is hoping those players will continue to show that they can help the Mean Green when they head to the Bahamas for one of their bigger tests of the season.
“We have three games in three days,” McCasland said. “It will help prepare our guys for what the conference tournament feels like. That’s why we wanted to play in this tournament – for strength of schedule and for the experience of competing in a tournament.”
North Texas 76, Paul Quinn 46
PAUL QUINN (1-1) – Redus 1-6 2-4 4, Tynes 0-1 2-4 2, Williams 5-11 2-4 16, Davis 0-2 0-0 0, Shaw 4-9 0-0 8, Hart 1-4 2-2 4, Scaife 0-4 0-0 0, Bensaiah 2-4 0-0 5, Makendi 1-1 0-0 2, Thompson 1-4 0-0 2, Joseph 1-1 1-2 3, Mingo 0-0 0-1 0, Goodwin 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-48 9-17 46.
NORTH TEXAS (3-1) – Scott 1-6 0-0 2, Ousmane 8-15 1-3 17, Eady 1-2 0-1 3, Perry 3-4 3-5 10, Huntsberry 2-6 2-4 7, Jones 3-7 0-0 8, Martinez 3-8 4-4 10, Stone 3-4 0-0 6, Sissoko 4-5 0-1 8, Morgan 0-2 0-0 0, Moore 2-3 0-0 5, Browne 0-1 0-0 0, Mattu 0-0 0-0 0, Allo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-63 10-18 76.
Halftime – UNT 39-28 Three-point goals – Paul Quinn 5-17 (Redus 0-1, Williams 4-7, Shaw 0-1, Hart 0-2, Scaife 0-1, Bensaiah 1-1, Thompson 0-3, Goodwin 0-1) UNT 6-19 (Scott 0-3, Eady 1-2, Perry 1-2, Huntsberry 1-3, Jones 2-4, Martinez 0-2, Stone 0-1, Moore 1-2) Fouled out – none Rebounds – Paul Quinn 23 (Shaw 4) UNT 51 (Scott 8) Assists – Paul Quinn 5 (Redus 3) UNT 17 (two tied, 4) Total fouls – Paul Quinn 22, UNT 12 A – 2,500.