UNT Mitchell

North Texas coach Jalie Mitchell coaches her team from the sideline in a game last season. UNT beat Lafayette on Saturday at the Super Pit.

North Texas is still in the early stages of its growth process in Jalie Mitchell’s fifth season with the Mean Green.

UNT has a host of young players either starting or filling key roles.

The Mean Green have learned a host of lessons already this season and gained some additional experience that could come in handy the rest of the way in a 69-66 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday at the Super Pit.

UNT (4-5) appeared to have a win wrapped up after grabbing an 11-point lead with 5:13 left.

The Mean Green struggled to close out the Ragin’ Cajuns (6-2) before making four free throws in the final 10.2 seconds after seeing their lead cut to 65-63.

The fact that win came in a week UNT spent time recovering from a trip to Hawaii and preparing for finals, made the outcome all the more satisfying.

“It was a big week for us mentally. I am proud of how we pushed through,” Mitchell said. “We had some adversity but hit some big shots and got some big stops.”

“We needed a win. I told the team, regardless of how pretty or ugly, a win is a win. We’ll take it.”

UNT has just three games left before the beginning of Conference USA play and is hoping its performance against Louisiana is another sign its young players will be ready. Freshmen Destinee McDowell and Jazion Jackson started, while N’Yah Boyd played significant minutes off the bench.

Boyd finished with 13 points, while McDowell added 10.

Junior guard Callie Owens led UNT with 16 points and made a few key plays late to make sure the Mean Green wouldn’t fold after Trena Mims hit a layup to put them up 65-54.

UNT didn’t hit another shot from the field the rest of the way and saw its lead cut to 65-63 with 30 seconds remaining on an Andrea Courmoyer layup.

“We thought we had it,” Owens said. “We didn’t stop playing, but we got a little comfortable at the end. We just have to keep going.”

Louisiana was forced to foul and sent Boyd to the line with 10.2 seconds left. Boyd hit one of her two shots to give UNT a 66-63 lead.

McDowell picked up a steal when the Ragin’ Cajuns tried to lob the ball into the post. Owens hit two free throws with 7.1 seconds to extend the Mean Green’s lead to five points.

Kimberly Burton hit a 3 with three seconds left to pull Louisiana back within two at 68-66. By then it was too late.

Boyd hit a final free throw and UNT hung on.

“I was happy with the way we closed it out,” Mitchell said. “There were things we could have handled better. We missed some short shots and had some rebounds go through our fingers. Finishing is huge.”

The fact UNT closed out the Ragin’ Cajuns without Madison Townley was particularly encouraging.

Townley, one of UNT’s starting forwards, was in a walking boot and was unavailable.

“We are down a starter, a defender and one of our best rebounders,” Mitchell said. “Everyone has to step up and try to make up for what she brings. That is a part of it.”

UNT did just that despite solid games from Brandi Williams and Ty’Reona Doucet. Williams came off the bench to lead the Ragin’ Cajuns with 18 points, while Doucet added 17.

Louisiana came into the day having won five straight.

“It was a good win against a team that came in at 6-1,” Mitchell said. “We competed at a really high level.”

That was especially true in the closing minutes when the game was on the line.

“This is something we can learn from,” Owens said. “We have a young team that is going to learn from every game.”

“We are headed in the right direction.”

North Texas 69, Louisiana 66

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE (6-2) – Burton 4-5 0-0 9, Doucet 7-11 3-5 17, Thomas 0-3 0-0 0, Cournoyer 3-9 0-0 7, Goodwin 1-4 1-4 3, Williams 7-12 2-3 18, Mathis 0-3 0-0 0, Bess 0-2 0-0 0, Wren 1-3 0-0 2, Goodly 1-3 0-0 2, Morrison 3-4 0-0 8. Totals 27-59 6-12 66.

NORTH TEXAS (4-5) – McDowell 5-11 0-0 10, George 4-5 1-1 9, Owens 6-9 2-2 16, Jackson 2-4 2-5 6, Mims 2-5 0-0 4, Boyd 4-8 4-6 13, Thompson 0-1 0-0 0, Shepherd 1-4 0-0 2, Jones 3-8 0-0 9. Totals 27-55 9-14 69.

Lafayette 12 22 12 20 — 66 North Texas 20 15 18 16 — 69

Three-point goals – Louisiana 6-12 (Burton 1-1, Thomas 0-1, Cournoyer 1-2, Goodwin 0-2, Williams 2-3, Goodly 0-1, Morrison 2-2) UNT 6-16 (McDowell 0-1, Owens 2-4, Mims 0-2, Boyd 1-1, Thompson 0-1, Jones 3-7). Fouled out – George. Rebounds – Louisiana 28 (Williams 7), UNT 36 (George 9). Assists – Louisiana 7 (Williams 2), UNT 13 (Boyd 3). Total fouls – Louisiana 16, UNT 18. A – 1,327.

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

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