Javion Hamlet for advance

North Texas guard Javion Hamlet throws a pass during a game at the Super Pit earlier this season. Hamlet hit the game-winner for UNT in its victory over Louisiana Tech on Saturday. The Mean Green will host Rice on Monday.

North Texas entered a tough road trip last week looking to make history. The Mean Green did just that by knocking off Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech on the road.

Those wins put UNT in position to add another milestone to its resume on Monday when it faces Rice.

The Mean Green (11-8) are 5-1 in Conference USA and can post their best start in conference play since the 1988-89 season with a win over the Owls in a 7 p.m. game at the Super Pit.

UNT enters the game off a dramatic 51-50 win over Louisiana Tech. The Mean Green trailed 50-49 after Amorie Archibald hit a layup with five seconds left.

UNT got the ball to Javion Hamlet, who drove the length of the floor and hit a floater in the lane at the buzzer.

“This a huge win for our program and has us feeling great,” Hamlet said after the game.

The win was UNT’s first over Louisiana Tech in Ruston since 1952 and was the Mean Green’s fifth straight since a loss to Western Kentucky to open C-USA play.

UNT beat Southern Miss on Thursday for its first win in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, since 1971.

Those wins helped elevate UNT to No. 92 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, a system that rates all of the teams in college basketball on a number of factors, including record and scoring margin.

UNT is also sitting in a tie with WKU atop of the C-USA standings.

The Mean Green appear to be in perfect position to build on their historic start over the next few weeks.

UNT’s game against Rice (9-10, 1-5) marks the beginning of a series of four games against C-USA’s Texas teams. UNT will face Rice twice in that span and will also face UTEP and UTSA.

The Mean Green will then take on Middle Tennessee. None of those teams are over .500 in C-USA play.

Rice has lost six of its last seven games and was blown out by Southern Miss 81-68 in its last game.

UNT has emerged as one of the toughest teams defensively in C-USA. The Mean Green have held their last four opponents under 60 points and rank second in the league with an average of 61.6 points allowed per game.

The Mean Green have used a balanced scoring attack to complement their play on the defensive end.

Sophomore guard Umoja Gibson is averaging 14.2 points per game to lead UNT. Hamlet is adding 11.6 points per game for the Mean Green, who have eight players averaging at least four points per game.

UNT is hoping that balanced attack will carry it past a Rice team that has struggled. Sophomore guard Trey Murphy III is averaging 14.5 points per game to lead the Owls and is one of four players averaging double figures.

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

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