North Texas coach Jalie Mitchell vowed her team would be ready the next time it was locked in a tight game late following a series of heartbreaking losses that went down to the final seconds.
The Mean Green couldn’t close out Southern Miss when it had a chance on Thursday or come through in a pair of nail-bitters in Florida last week.
The lessons UNT digested in those games came in awfully handy on Saturday, when the Mean Green made the key plays they needed in the closing seconds to hang on for a 74-69 overtime win over Louisiana Tech at the Super Pit.
Anisha George scored in a key spot to send the game to overtime and then N’Yah Boyd hit a jumper that put the Mean Green up for good in overtime.
“It feels great,” George said. “No one wants to be 1-4. We went after it today and were determined to win.”
Another loss in a close game would have been devastating considering what UNT (8-10, 2-4 Conference USA) had been through lately. The Mean Green lost by two at Florida International when George missed a short shot at the buzzer, fell in double overtime at Florida Atlantic and then blew a five-point fourth-quarter lead in a loss to Southern Miss.
UNT had lost four straight overall.
“Going through that experience against FAU taught us a lot, and in practice we went through those situations,” Mitchell said. “We relived them. Today, we made better decisions and choices and took better shots. We made some stops when we needed them.”
None of those shots were bigger than a layup George hit with 1.7 seconds left in regulation. UNT was up 62-57 with 1:05 left before Louisiana Tech (9-7, 1-4) rallied and took a 63-62 lead on Amber Dixon’s three-point play with 12.2 seconds remaining.
Louisiana Tech had two fouls to give before sending UNT to the line and committed both. The Bulldogs then knocked the ball out of bounds twice, leaving UNT just 3.3 seconds to work with. Trena Mims got the ball on the inbounds play and lobbed the ball to George in the post, where she scored with 1.7 seconds left.
“Trena threw a perfect pass to Anisha for that bucket at the end of regulation,” Mitchell said. “It was a perfect catch and a perfect finish.”
It just wasn’t the perfect ending.
Louisiana Tech took at timeout after George scored to set up a final play. The Lady Techsters also went to the post and got the ball to Dixon, who drew a foul with 0.4 seconds left.
Dixon could have ended the game right there but missed her first free throw before canning the second to send the game to overtime.
UNT and Louisiana Tech were tied up at 69-69 in the extra session when Boyd hit a jumper in the paint and the Mean Green made four key stops in the final minute to hang on for the win.
“We managed overtime extremely well,” Mitchell said. “Every possession we were set on getting a bucket and got the ball where we wanted to get it and were able to convert. Our guards did a great job of understanding where our points where coming from, whether that was feeding Anisha inside or driving open lanes. We were on the same page.”
More often than not, UNT went to George and Boyd. Both came through with solid games offensively.
George finished with 22 points, while Boyd added 15. Dixon led Louisiana Tech with 26.
The Mean Green got plenty of contributions from players other than its top two scorers. Randi Thompson and Summer Jones each hit a pair of 3s.
UNT is hoping its performance against Louisiana Tech is a sign of growth for a young team. Boyd and Thompson are just two of several freshman filling key roles.
Those players struggled at times in the close games UNT lost over the last few weeks.
Mitchell expected her young players to grow from that experience. The way they came through against Louisiana Tech was a sign they are in fact learning in a season UNT is depending on them to come through.
“You saw growth in N’Yah Boyd and Randi Thompson,” Mitchell said. “Going through those situations can only help you mature, especially as a point guard. I was proud of how they handled themselves today.”
North Texas 74, Louisiana Tech 69 (OT)
LOUISIANA TECH (9-7, 1-4) – Amand 1-5 2-2 4, Guinto 2-8 0-0 6, Walker 3-9 3-5 11, Dixon 8-18 10-15 26, Bright 2-7 0-0 4, Roberson 4-7 0-0 8, Harris 1-2 0-0 2, Hawkison 0-0 0-0 0, McCutcheon 0-1 0-0 0, Sant 3-5 0-0 8. Totals 24-62 15-22 69.
NORTH TEXAS (8-10, 2-4) – Townley 3-7 2-4 8, George 10-12 2-3 22, Boyd 6-13 2-5 15, Mims 4-7 0-0 8, Thompson 3-5 1-2 9, Shepherd 2-8 2-2 6, Jackson 0-1 0-0 0, Owens 0-3 0-0 0, Jones 2-5 0-0 6. Totals 30-61 9-16 74.
Louisiana Tech 13 14 20 17 5 — 69 North Texas 16 12 21 15 10 — 74
Three-point goals – Louisiana Tech 6-16 (Guinto 2-6, Walker 2-2, Dixon 0-3, Bright 0-1, Sant 2-4) UNT 5-12 (Boyd 1-3, Thompson 2-3, Shepherd 0-1, Owens 0-1, Jones 2-4). Fouled out – none. Rebounds – Louisiana Tech 35 (Amand 7) UNT 38 (George 9). Assists – Louisiana Tech 13 (Guinto 5), UNT 17 (two tied, 4). Total fouls – Louisiana Tech 19, UNT 19. A – 1.382.