TROY, Ala. — Alzee Williams felt a little nervous as Jeff Mullahey’s last-second shot fell toward the rim at Trojan Arena on Saturday night in North Texas’ game against Troy.
That feeling was shared by fellow UNT guard Jordan Williams, not to mention head coach Tony Benford.
In a season when all too often nothing has gone right for the Mean Green, Mullahey, a Troy guard with the ability to hit a deep shot from just about anywhere, had a clean look at a potential game-winning 3-pointer that would have been a crushing blow for the Mean Green.
UNT came into its game against Troy off a stunning loss to Louisiana-Monroe and had lost six of seven.
The Mean Green needed something to go right late in the season.
Something finally did in a 63-61 win. Mullahey missed.
UNT’s win doesn’t erase all that has gone wrong over the last few weeks, including blowing a 15-point second-half lead in a loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Thursday.
What the win does is give UNT (10-18, 5-12) something to build on late in the year.
“We played 40 minutes,” Benford said. “We talked about finishing and we finished tonight. We can’t live in the past. We have an opportunity to get better every day. We did that tonight. We got stops when we needed them.”
UNT also got a big performance from Jordan Williams.
The sophomore guard has been among UNT’s most consistent players late in the season and came up with a huge performance against Troy (11-16, 6-10), going 7-for-9 from 3-point range on his way to scoring a game-high 25 points.
Hunter Williams scored 21 for Troy, which missed out on an opportunity to give head coach Don Maestri his 500th career win.
“I was getting open looks and my teammates were getting it to me,” Jordan Williams said. “They were going down. They left me open when they were concentrating on taking Tony [Mitchell] away down low.”
The school record for 3-pointers in a game is eight, a milestone four different players have achieved. Joe Ervin was the last player to reach that milestone, in a game against Arkansas in 1998.
UNT needed every one of Jordan Williams’ 3’s to hang on for the win after the Mean Green had seemingly taken control when Alzee Williams hit a baseline jumper to give the Mean Green a 62-56 lead with 2:23 left.
Troy answered when Hunter Williams hit a 3 and had a chance to tie the game when Deonata Jethroe hit a layup and drew a foul at the 1:20 mark. Jethroe had a chance to tie the game with the ensuing free throw, but missed, leaving UNT up 62-61.
Alzee Williams missed a 3 with 44 seconds left, giving Troy a chance to take the lead. Troy called a timeout and got the ball to Hunter Williams, who missed a jumper.
UNT had a chance to extend its lead when Alzee Williams went to the line with eight seconds left. Williams hit the first shot, but missed the second.
Troy pushed the ball up the floor and got the ball to Mullahey, who had hit his only other 3-point attempt on the night.
“That last shot, I was scared, but it came out,” Alzee Williams said. “I was worried after I missed the free throw.”
UNT came into the night focused on closing out games after letting a big lead slip away at Monroe, not to mention building momentum heading into the Sun Belt tournament.
“We were disappointed in the way we played in Monroe, but we are playing meaningful games,” Benford said. “The teams that are playing well heading into the tournament are going to have a chance to win it.”
UNT played well at times against Troy.
Jordan Williams hit back-to-back 3’s during a 10-2 UNT run that gave the Mean Green a 26-19 lead late in the first half.
UNT had a chance to pull away, but saw Troy answer and tie the game at 26-26 on a Hunter Williams three-point play.
Tony Mitchell scored seven points in the first half and scored just before halftime to give UNT a 28-26 lead at the break.
The game remained close the rest of the way.
The difference was the way UNT played offensively in the second half, when the Mean Green shot 77.8 percent (14-for-18) from the floor.
“We shot lights out,” Benford said. “One thing we have been preaching is paint touches and getting the ball inside. We did that tonight.”
Even though UNT reached that goal, the Mean Green still had to wait it out at the end after Mullahey had a chance to win the game.
“He got a good look at it,” Benford said. “The basketball gods were with us tonight.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870.
North Texas 63, Troy 61
NORTH TEXAS (10-18, 5-12) — Mitchell 3-8 2-2 9, A. Williams 4-10 2-3 10, Hardwick 4-6 1-2 9, J. Williams 9-11 0-0 25, Franklin 3-7 4-6 10, Overlander 0-1 0-0 0, Stojiljkovic 0-2 0-0 0, Coleman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-45 9-13 63.
TROY (11-16, 6-10) — Chambers 4-8 0-0 8, Myers 0-3 0-0 0, Jones 3-8 2-2 8, Williams 8-14 3-4 21, Jethroe 3-11 2-5 10, Mullahey 1-3 2-2 5, Calhoun 1-4 0-0 2, Warren 1-1 0-0 2, Westley 2-2 0-0 5. Totals 23-54 9-13 61.
Halftime — UNT 28-26. Three-point goals — UNT 8-15 (Mitchell 1-3, A. Williams 0-2, J. Williams 7-9, Overlander 0-1). Troy 6-15 (Jones 0-1, Williams 2-5, Jethroe 2-6, Mullahey 1-2, Hinton 1-1). Fouled out — none. Rebounds — UNT 28 (Mitchell 8), Troy 30 (Jethroe 10). Assists — UNT 13 (Hardwick 6), Troy 11 (Williams 4). Total fouls — UNT 17, Troy 15. Technical fouls — Coleman, Warren.