North Texas spent nearly three months trying to address a host of issues, from injuries to inconsistency, and build momentum heading into the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
UNT hasn’t exactly dominated its competition recently, but it has pulled out a pair of wins that went down to the wire, knocking off Troy 63-61 and then recording a 66-57 overtime win over Florida Atlantic on Thursday.
That’s something to celebrate for UNT, which will look to win three in a row for just the second time this season when it takes on South Alabama tonight in the second half of a doubleheader that will begin with the women’s game at 5:05 p.m. at the Mitchell Center in Mobile, Ala.
“We finally got it together,” UNT guard Jordan Williams said of winning back-to-back games. “We are going to push through this game Saturday and then through the conference tournament.”
UNT’s game against USA today will be an important gauge of just how capable the Mean Green is of reaching that goal.
UNT (11-18, 6-12 Sun Belt) has won a couple of games in a row, but those wins came against teams alongside the Mean Green near the basement of the conference standings.
USA (15-10, 12-5) is in second place in the Sun Belt’s East Division and had won seven of eight before being hammered 85-50 by Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders (24-4) have wrapped up the regular-season Sun Belt title.
USA forward Augustine Rubit is averaging 19.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game and has been among the Sun Belt’s most productive players all season.
UNT has been a more balanced team and has four players averaging in double figures, including Jordan Williams. The guard is averaging 14.1 points a game, while fellow sophomore Tony Mitchell is averaging 13.3 points and 8.2 rebounds.
While the UNT men are aiming to build on a late-season run of success, the Mean Green women enter their game against USA hoping to pull out of a slide that has seen them lose four of their last five.
UNT (10-17, 9-9) fell 73-60 to FAU at home Wednesday for its second consecutive loss.
“We are not playing as well as we need to,” UNT women’s coach Mike Petersen said. “We need to get back to being us. We need to get back to defending all the time. We need to get back to being disruptive all the time. We have a game on Saturday that will be a little test of, ‘Look in the mirror. Who are you going to be?’ Are we going to be that team that really competes and grinds and plays for 40 minutes?”
UNT was at the top of its game the last time it faced USA (14-12, 7-10) and blew the Jaguars out 67-47 for its fourth win in a five-game streak.
BreAnna Dawkins scored 16 points and Laura McCoy added 15 for UNT in the first meeting between the teams.
Dawkins is averaging 10.4 points per game. Loryn Goodwin leads UNT at 13.7 points a game, while fellow freshman Alexis Hyder is adding 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
Mary Nixon is averaging 11.5 points a game to lead USA, while Mansa El is adding 9.2 points a game and leads the Jaguars with 73 assists.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.