NORMAN, Okla. — Jordan Williams drifted to the corner and let a 3-pointer fly in the second half of North Texas’ game at Oklahoma on Monday night.
When it ripped through the net, UNT trailed the Sooners by just four, a scenario that seemed unlikely at best just a few days ago, when the Mean Green struggled mightily to sneak by Northwood in its season opener.
UNT looked like a completely different team than the one that barely escaped an upset bid by an NAIA team in its second game of the season, hanging in there before the Sooners pulled away late for a 95-82 win at the Lloyd Noble Center in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
“Our guys made mistakes and played down to the competition,” UNT head coach Tony Benford said of the Mean Green’s opener. “I told them that we were going to get embarrassed if we played like we did the other night. We would get beat by 50.”
Oklahoma (2-0) had a comfortable lead for most of the night, but could never quite bury the Mean Green (1-1). UNT was far too consistent offensively and more than held its own in the paint.
UNT had four players who finished in double figures, including Alzee Williams. The senior paced the Mean Green with a game-high 24 points. Chris Jones added 16 and Jordan Williams 13.
The big surprise was the performance of Keith Coleman, who posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Both totals shattered his previous career highs of five points and seven rebounds.
UNT just didn’t have enough firepower to keep pace with Oklahoma. Buddy Hield scored 23 points to lead five Sooners who finished in double figures.
Sherman native Cameron Clark finished with 11 points in what was expected to be a showdown with his friend and former rival T.J. Taylor of Denison. Taylor did not play because of a sore knee and has yet to make his debut for UNT after transferring in from Marquette and sitting out last season.
Despite being shorthanded, UNT was right in the game in the second half. Jordan Williams sparked an 8-0 Mean Green run and hit highlight reel 3 to pull UNT within 66-62 at the 12:19 mark of the second half.
“I thought we were going to come back and win the game at that point,” Williams said. “We had a chance the whole game.”
Oklahoma guard Je’lon Hornbeak answered with a 3-pointer and the Sooners gradually pulled away.
UNT showed that it was ready to rebound from its performance against Northwood early against Oklahoma. The Mean Green led by four twice early, the last time at 8-4 behind Coleman, who scored six straight points for the Mean Green.
“That was very important that we established ourselves early,” Jordan Williams said.
Oklahoma answered with an 8-0 run. Tyler Neal hit one of Oklahoma’s six 3-pointers in the first half and Frank Booker converted a three-point play to cap the surge that put the Sooners up 12-8.
Hield scored five points to fuel a 9-0 run that gave the Sooners their biggest lead of the first half at 37-23.
UNT responded with five straight points from Chris Jones and cut its deficit to 48-38 at halftime and continued to fight through the second half.
The Mean Green just never could quite get over the hump and take the lead.
“College basketball is a game of runs,” Benford said. “We make a run, they make a run. If you’re going to stop a run, you have to get stops and we didn’t do it.”
What UNT did do was show the type of focus it felt it lacked in its season opener against Northwood.
“We played way better than we did in our first game,” Jordan Williams said. “We played way better defensively, took better shots and attacked.”
UNT is hoping that performance is one it can build on heading into a game at home on Thursday against Nicholls State before heading to Portland, Ore., for its final three games in the Coaches vs. Cancer event.
“Coach told us that this was a great opportunity to show what we are made of and that we are not a push over,” Alzee Williams said. “This can be a momentum builder. We talked about it as a team after the game against Northwood. We talked about coming out, playing hard and give it everything we had.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870.
Oklahoma 95, North Texas 82
North Texas — Voss 0-1 0-0 0, Coleman 6-11 2-3 14, Vaughns 0-4 2-2 2, Walton 3-9 1-2 8, A. Williams 8-12 6-9 24, Aniefiok 1-3 0-0 3, Flannigan 1-2 0-0 2, Jones 7-14 0-1 16, J. Williams 4-11 3-3 13. Totals 30-67 14-20 82.
Oklahoma — Spangler 4-5 3-9 11, Clark 5-10 1-1 11, Woodard 3-8 1-2 7, Cousins 3-7 1-1 7, Hield 7-14 6-6 23, Booker 3-5 1-1 9, Hornbeak 4-7 1-2 11, Neal 5-9 1-2 12, Bennett 2-3 0-0 4, Mankin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 36-68 15-24 95.
Halftime — Oklahoma 48-38. 3-Point Goals — North Texas 8-18 (Jones 2-2, A. Williams 2-2, J. Williams 2-5, Aniefiok 1-2, Walton 1-6, Vaughns 0-1), Oklahoma 8-18 (Hield 3-4, Hornbeak 2-4, Booker 2-4, Neal 1-3, Spangler 0-1, Woodard 0-2). Fouled Out — Clark, Jones. Rebounds — North Texas 39 (Coleman 10), Oklahoma 36 (Spangler 9). Assists — North Texas 13 (Vaughns 5), Oklahoma 15 (Woodard 6). Total Fouls — North Texas 22, Oklahoma 18. Technical — Coleman. A — 9,288.