MIAMI — North Texas still has a game to go on its second two-game eastern trip in the Sun Belt Conference season. No matter what happens the rest of the way, this trip will end up being a lot better for the Mean Green than its first road swing.
Alexis Hyder and Loryn Goodwin each tallied career highs and UNT hung on for a 70-68 win over Florida International on Thursday at U.S. Century Bank Arena.
UNT (7-10, 6-2 Sun Belt) will head to Florida Atlantic on Saturday and will be on a historic roll when it gets there. The Mean Green’s win over FIU (10-7, 4-4) was its fifth straight, both overall and in Sun Belt play.
UNT’s five-game winning streak is its longest since the 2007-08 season. All five of those wins have come in Sun Belt games, giving the Mean Green its longest run in league play since the 2001-02 season.
UNT dropped two-point games at Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky the last time it ventured east.
“We showed more focus and maturity on this trip,” Goodwin said. “We are growing up.”
And becoming a contender in the Sun Belt, thanks to a winning streak that ranks among UNT’s best in recent years.
“It really is a big win for us,” UNT coach Mike Petersen said. “I told the girls that you don’t win five in a row unless you win road games. [FIU] is a very good team.”
Hyder and Goodwin made a series of clutch plays down the stretch.
UNT trailed by as many as six points in the second half before Braylah Blakely tied the game at 66 on a layup with 1:23 left.
FIU guard Arielle Durant missed a 3-pointer before grabbing her own rebound. Blakely picked up a steal before the Golden Panthers could get off another shot.
UNT capitalized when Hyder missed a layup, rebounded her miss and scored.
Jerica Coley missed a jumper on the other end for FIU before Hyder iced the win for UNT with a pair of free throws.
“I knew I was going to make it. I had to make it,” Hyder said of her big putback. “After the first shot, I could see where it was going. I went and got it.”
Hyder’s performance down the stretch was the topper for one of her best games of the season. The freshman scored 19 of her career-high 20 points in the second half.
Goodwin carried UNT early, scoring 13 of her career-high 19 points in the first half.
“When they shut down other players, someone else has to step up,” Goodwin said. “I got good shots when they doubled down in the post, and I was able to score in transition.”
Goodwin added four steals for UNT, which played well on the defensive end. The Mean Green held Coley to 15 points, well off her Sun Belt-high average of 23.8 points per game.
Martina Davydova led FIU with 18 points.
Coley scored 10 points in the first half, when FIU went on a 12-1 run and led by as many as eight before Goodwin sparked a UNT run.
Goodwin hit a 3 and added a layup off a steal before Sara Stanley hit a layup that cut FIU’s lead to 32-30.
The Golden Panthers answered when Coley hit a jumper with six seconds left to give FIU a 34-30 halftime lead.
UNT couldn’t quite close out a pair of games the last time it ventured east for a two-game Sun Belt swing. This time, UNT made the plays it needed.
“I was absolutely happy with the way we played down the stretch,” Petersen said. “We got good shots and played well defensively.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
North Texas 70, Florida International 68
NORTH TEXAS (7-10, 6-2) — McCoy 2-8 0-0 5, Dawkins 3-16 3-5 9, Stanley 4-6 2-2 10, Hyder 5-14 9-11 20, Goodwin 5-8 6-8 19, Evans 0-0 0-0 0, Blakely 1-2 1-2 3, Tac 0-0 1-2 1, Nelson 1-2 1-2 3. Toals 21-56 23-32 70.
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (10-7, 4-4) — Labady 1-3 2-2 4, Davydova 8-14 2-4 18, Coley 6-18 3-3 15, Mansare 6-15 0-0 12, Miloglav 4-5 1-2 9, Ashmore 2-3 0-0 4, Durant 2-5 0-0 6. Totals 29-63 8-11 68.
Halftime — FIU 34-30. 3-point goals — UNT 5-12 (McCoy 1-4, Dawkins 0-2, Hyder 1-3 Goodwin 3-3), FIU 2-7 (Labady 0-1, Coley 0-3, Durant 2-3). Fouled out — none. Rebounds — UNT 36 (Hyder 8), FIU 39 (Davydova 15). Assists — UNT 14 (Dawkins 7), FIU 19 (Coley 7). Total fouls — UNT 17, FIU 18.