There have been more than a few points over the course of this disappointing season when the North Texas men can look back and wonder what might have happened if things had gone differently.
UNT’s game against Western Kentucky today will offer a chance to reflect on one of those cases.
The Mean Green has lost four players to season-ending injuries this year and saw its season take a dramatic turn for the worse when Chris Jones went down with a broken foot in a loss to WKU on Dec. 29. That defeat dropped UNT to 0-2 in Sun Belt Conference play.
Nothing has been the same since for the Mean Green (8-16, 3-10 SBC).
UNT has gone 3-8 since that game and just this week announced that senior forwards Jacob Holmen and Justin Patton have decided to end their college careers due to injuries.
One of the hopes UNT had hung on to late in the season was that some of its key players would return in time to play in the Sun Belt tournament.
UNT has yet to rule out Jones, but more and more it is looking like the Mean Green will have to lean on the players it has available now, starting with its home game tonight against the Hilltoppers.
The game will be the second half of a doubleheader that will begin at 5 p.m. when the UNT women will try to build on a late-season surge that has seen them win two straight.
“We have other guys who are going to have to step up and contribute,” UNT men’s coach Tony Benford said. “I have never been through anything like this. No one in our league has gone through something like this.”
How UNT handles the adversity it faces will determine what its prospects in the Sun Belt tournament look like. The Mean Green is in 10th place in the 11-team conference, ahead of only Louisiana-Monroe.
Tony Mitchell is averaging 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game to lead UNT. Jordan Williams is just behind Mitchell with an average of 13.3 points a game and has scored at least 18 points in each of UNT’s last four games.
UNT is in the midst of a four-game slide despite Williams’ run.
The Hilltoppers (12-11) are 6-6 in Sun Belt play and had lost three straight before edging Troy at home a week ago. Starting guards T.J. Price and Jamal Crook are averaging 13.8 and 13.3 points per game, respectively, to lead WKU.
The UNT women are at the opposite end of the spectrum after picking up a pair of wins last week, including a crucial 64-62 win Sunday at Arkansas State.
UNT entered its game against ASU two games behind the Red Wolves in the Sun Belt West Division standings and closed the gap to one.
UNT will look to build on that win today in its game against the Hilltoppers, who beat the Mean Green 82-80 in late December.
Alexis Govan scored 40 points for WKU in the teams’ first meeting and is averaging a team-high 19.6 points per game for the Hilltoppers.
UNT has been on a tear since its loss to WKU, going 7-3 with a key win at Arkansas-Little Rock.
Alexis Hyder has helped spark that run. The freshman forward was named Sun Belt Player of the Week on Monday after leading UNT to its last two wins.
Hyder scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds while helping UNT snap ASU’s seven-game winning streak and finished with 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds in a win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
Hyder is averaging 13.5 points per game to lead UNT.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.