North Texas didn’t come up with the result it hoped for in a key nonconference showdown with St. Louis on Wednesday.
Once UNT looked past the 67-63 final, though, the Mean Green’s players and coaches saw a lot to like.
Tony Mitchell had one of his better all-around performances, the Mean Green played better defensively and — perhaps most important of all — UNT found something to feel good about heading into a game against Jackson State (0-4) tonight at the Super Pit.
UNT (3-6) will look to break a four-game losing streak in the first of three straight home games before an eight-day Christmas break.
“There is no doubt we can build off that game,” UNT head coach Tony Benford said. “We are getting better. We played 30 minutes of good basketball.”
The highlight of those minutes was an 18-point, eight-rebound performance by Mitchell, who took just one shot in the Mean Green’s previous game, a loss at home to Louisiana-Lafayette.
Mitchell went to work after that game, shooting before practice from a variety of spots on the floor with assistant coach Bart Lundy.
“Coach Lundy and I worked hard on my arsenal before practice,” Mitchell said. “It was successful.”
Chris Jones also had a big game against SLU, scoring 21 points to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists.
Jones scored 23 points against ULL and is averaging 12.2 points a game.
While UNT got solid offensive performances from Mitchell and Jones against SLU, Benford cited something a lot simpler for the Mean Green’s improved performance.
“We played harder,” Benford said. “We did a good job of executing in the halfcourt, and Tony was aggressive. He rebounded the ball, and Chris set the tone running the team.”
Benford also credited Keith Coleman and Niko Stojiljkovic for playing well off the bench. Stojiljkovic finished with six points and four rebounds.
UNT will look to build on that outing against what Benford believes is a dangerous JSU team, despite its record.
“They are athletic, play hard and can shoot the ball,” Benford said. “They are a good team. We can’t overlook anyone. We have to continue to get better defensively and offensively.”
UNT believes that if it does that it will be able to end its four-game slide.
“We are right there,” Jones said. “We just don’t want it bad enough. Once we want it bad enough, we are going to win a lot of games.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.