Once it got going in its home opener against Cameron on Friday night, the Mean Green started to look like the team that everyone expected to see this season.
Tony Mitchell displayed the all-around game that makes him one of the top players in the country, guard Chris Jones directed the show, and UNT ran waves of athletes at an overmatched Aggies team.
UNT is hoping the way it came back from a bit of a slow start at the Super Pit to hammer Cameron 78-49 turns out to be a microcosm of its season by March.
The Mean Green got off to a tough start, losing its first two games of the year on the road, but appears to be rounding into form after winning two straight.
“It went pretty well,” Jones said. “We executed our plays and did what we were supposed to do. Coach gave us the game plan and we executed very well. This is the way we expected to play. We gave everyone what they wanted to see.”
The UNT might have given itself a little boost of confidence in the process.
The Mean Green endured a tough road trip that included a loss to nationally ranked Creighton and a loss to Division II Alabama-Huntsville, and head coach Tony Benford and his players must already be tired of talking about.
They know that the best way to bury that loss is to start winning — and doing it convincingly — like so many expected this season.
UNT (2-2) started to do just that against Cameron, another D-II squad, one less highly regarded than UAH.
The Mean Green had five players score in double figures against the Aggies and played well on the defensive end, something Benford has emphasized since taking over the program and continued to harp on this week.
“Our guys came out and executed the game plan,” Benford said. “We played well on the defensive end of the floor. We wanted to shore up that end of the floor. We had not done a good job of containing the basketball and contesting shooters and finishing possessions with rebounds.”
Benford believes that if UNT can reach that goal, it can get out in the open floor and capitalize on its athleticism, an asset that was apparent in the Mean Green’s win over Cameron.
Jones scored a team-high 16 points and Jacob Holmen added 14 on a night he hit all but one of his four 3-point attempts.
Alzee Williams added 12 points and Jordan Williams 11.
UNT All-American candidate Tony Mitchell took only five shots from the floor but still managed to post a solid all-around game with 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
“Tony is unselfish,” Benford said. “I tell him I want him to take 20 shots a game. I tell him, ‘Shoot the ball, shoot the ball.’ You can’t blame me if he doesn’t shoot. He will get more attempts next week.”
UNT appeared as if it might need some late heroics from Mitchell after the Mean Green got off to a slow start and trailed in the early going before going on an 18-2 run to take control. Jones scored eight of his 12 first-half points during the run.
“We have always been a slow-starting team,” Holmen said. “We have to try to cut that out and come out with a little more fire.”
Once UNT got going, there was no stopping it, especially on a night the Mean Green played well defensively.
Asaad Robinson scored 20 points to pace Cameron, which didn’t get much help from the rest of its roster and shot 26.6 percent from the floor.
That wasn’t nearly took enough to keep pace with UNT, which led 43-20 at the break.
UNT picked right up where it left off to start the second half, rolling off a 19-0 run. Holmen capped the run with consecutive 3-pointers that put the Mean Green up 62-20.
That was just the type of performance UNT was expecting on a consistent basis this season.
After a slow start to the game and its season, the type of outing it had against Cameron is what the Mean Green anticipates being the standard for the rest of the year.
“We know that we are a better team than that,” Benford said of the way UNT played in its first two games. “We have to continue to get better. We are starting to get into a groove and understand what we need to do to get stops. Offensively, we have to run. We can’t do that if we don’t get stops and rebound.”
UNT did all of that Friday in its best all-around outing of the season thus far.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
North Texas 78, Cameron 49
CAMERON (1-1) – Harrell 1-7 1-2 3, A.D. Thomas 0-8 0-0 0, Foster 2-5 1-1 6, Patino 1-8 0-0 3, Dixon 1-6 0-1 3, Johnson 2-7 0-0 4, Robinson 7-14 2-2 20, A.M. Thomas 1-2 0-0 2, Smith 0-1 2-2 2, Thompson 2-6 1-1 6. Totals 17-64 7-9 49.
NORTH TEXAS (2-2) – T. Mitchell 3-5 4-6 11, Franklin 1-3 0-0 2, A. Williams 6-7 0-0- 12, Jones 8-9 0-1 16, J. Williams 4-12 2-3 11, Holmen 5-8 1-2 14, Hardwick 2-5 1-1 5, A. Mitchell 0-0 0-0 0, Patton 0-3 2-2 2, Overlander 0-6 0-0 0, Stojiljkovic 0-4 0-0 0, Coleman 2-6 1-2 5. Totals 31-68 11-17 78.
Halftime – UNT 43-20. 3-point goals – Cameron 8-24 (Foster 1-2, Patino 1-4, Dixon 1-5, Johnson 0-3, Robinson 4-8, Thompson 1-2), UNT 5-20 (T. Mitchell 1-2, J. Williams 1-5, Holmen 3-4, Patton 0-1, Overlander 0-6, Stojiljkovic 0-2). Fouled out – Thompson. Rebounds – Cameron 39 (Harrell 9), UNT 50 (Hardwick 9). Assists – Cameron 6 (Foster, Robinson 2), UNT 14 (Jones 7). Total fouls – Cameron 21, UNT 13. A – 2,673.