One of the greatest coaches in North Texas history took time out on Thursday to complement Grant McCasland and the current edition of the Mean Green.
Johnny Jones knows what a great college basketball team looks like after coaching several in his career, including his 2010 Sun Belt Conference tournament champions. UNT honored that team at halftime of its game against UTSA at the Super Pit.
Jones talked about how honored he was to be back for the 10-year anniversary of that team’s appearance in the NCAA tournament.
The Mean Green made certain a memorable night in program history ended the right way while running past the Roadrunners 98-78.
“Those guys mean a lot to this program because they showed that you can do it here,” McCasland said. “It was really cool to win with them here and honor them.”
Josh White, a member of UNT’s Athletic Hall of Fame, Eric Tramiel and Tristan Thompson were among several member of the 2010 team who came back for a reunion and to see the current edition of the Mean Green play.
What they saw was reminiscent of Jones’ best teams during his 11-year tenure at UNT. Those teams pushed the pace and played high scoring games.
McCasland’s teams are far different and play a slower, defensive-oriented game.
The Mean Green (13-8, 7-1 C-USA) changed gears on a special night in program history while racing past UTSA for their seventh straight win.
UNT had held five straight opponents under 60 points. That wasn’t an option against UTSA. The Roadrunners (9-11, 3-4) feature a dynamic backcourt with Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace.
Jackson entered the night ranked second nationally with an average of 25.8 points per game, while Wallace was adding 17.4.
“They are hard to guard and are good at drawing fouls,” McCasland said. “Until you have been out there it’s hard to adjust to.”
UNT never quite found a way to contain Jackson and Wallace but made the adjustments necessary to pull away for the win.
The Mean Green ran with the Roadrunners for most the night and made more than enough plays late to pull away.
Umoja Gibson led UNT with 27 points and Javion Hamlet added 22. Five players scored in double figures for the Mean Green, who tallied a season high for points against a Division I opponent. That was more than enough to counter the game-high 37 scored by Jackson. Wallace added 24.
“We were just being aggressive,” Hamlet said. “Coached preached that and making the easy play.”
UNT did just that in the early going and broke the game open with a 12-0 run in the first half.
James Reese and Roosevelt Smart both hit 3s during the run that put the Mean Green up 24-10.
“That run set the tone,” Gibson said. “We executed and everything came out right.”
The Mean Green just had to make a few key plays late to ensure the outcome.
UNT led 50-36 at halftime before UTSA cut the Mean Green’s lead to single digits multiple times.
Jackson hit a 3 with 8:25 left to pull the Roadrunners within 74-69. UTSA still had plenty of time to complete a comeback.
UNT quickly answered with a 12-1 run. Zachary Simmons sparked the run with a jumper in the paint. Deng Geu added a pair of free throws and Hamlet converted a three-point play.
The Mean Green were well on their way to a memorable win at that point that was a little different then the previous victories in the streak.
UNT wasn’t locked in a half court grinder of a game like so many of its previous wins. The Mean Green spent their night out running with the Roadrunners in a game reminiscent of those UNT played under Jones in 2010.
“I like to see us understand the game plan and what we are trying to do,” McCasland said. “Our guys are bought in now. It’s fun to see.”
That was particularly true with the members of one of the greatest teams in program history looking on.
“We are trying to do what they did and do it even better,” Hamlet said. “We thank them for setting the blueprint for us and coming out tonight.”
North Texas 98, UTSA 78
UTSA (9-11, 3-4)– Frohnen 0-1 1-4 1, Barisic 3-6 1-1 8, Jackson 10-21 12-15 37, Czumbel 0-0 0-0 0, Wallace 9-18 3-4 24, Hellums 0-3 0-0 0, Bior 1-1 0-0 2, Germany 3-4 0-0 6, Whiteside 0-1 0-2 0, Rodriguez 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-55 17-26 78.
NORTH TEXAS (13-8, 7-1) – Geu 1-2 3-4 5, Z. Simmons 4-8 5-8 13, Reese 6-9 2-2 18, Gibson 8-15 8-11 27, Hamlet 8-13 5-5 22, Smart 1-3 0-0 2, Bell 5-9 1-2 11, Draper 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, J. Simmons 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 33-60 24-32 98.
Halftime – UNT 50-36. Three-point goals – UTSA 9-20 (Barisic 1-2, Jackson 5-10, Wallace 3-8) UNT 8-16 (Z. Simmons 0-1, Reese 4-6, Gibson 3-8, Hamlet 1-1). Fouled out – Germany. Rebounds – UTSA 28 (Two tied, 6) UNT 37 (Bell 15). Assists – UTSA 6 (Two tied, 2) UNT 10 (Hamlet 6). Total fouls – UTSA 25, UNT 21. A – 3,186.