North Texas coach Tony Benford and his players spent some time Monday talking about what had transpired in its last two games and — more importantly — what to do about it.
The Mean Green fell to depths it hadn’t seen in more than a decade while dropping consecutive games by at least 30 points and holed up in its film room to discuss how to rebound.
UNT felt like it took at least a small step toward its goal of regrouping while beating Central Arkansas 64-55 in a rare Tuesday morning game at the Super Pit on Denton ISD Day.
The Mean Green (6-5) trailed by three in late in the second half before closing on an 11-3 run to secure the win in front of about 2,000 local grade schoolers bused in for the game.
“The guys came out and played hard, with a lot of energy and a lot of passion,” Benford said. “Regardless of who you are playing, you have to compete. We were disappointed about the other night. We talked about it.”
UNT was drubbed at home 87-53 by Stephen F. Austin on Sunday in a game Benford called the most embarrassing he has been a part of during his coaching career. That loss came on the heels of a 97-67 loss at BYU.
UNT had not lost back-to-back games by 30 points since the 1999-2000 season.
Benford and his players maintained that they are better than what they showed in those two losses and were happy to get back on the right track by snapping their two-game slide against the Bears (2-6).
“We need all of them, and obviously we needed this one because it was the next one,” Benford said. “We are going to need the next one on Saturday and the next one after that. This was something we can build on. It was a good win for us.”
UNT got that win largely because of a few clutch plays down the stretch and a balanced offensive attack led by Colin Voss. The junior forward scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the first double-double of his UNT career.
Jordan Williams added 11 points, while T.J. Taylor and Alzee Williams each added 10 points.
DeShone McClure scord a game-high 23 points for UCA and hit a pair of free throws that put the Bears up 48-46 with 8:01 left.
Taylor answered with arguably the shot of the game for UNT, a 3-pointer from the corner that put the Mean Green up for good.
“T.J. is putting some practices together,” Benford said. “He has had so many nagging injuries. You have to put practices together to get into a rhythm.”
Voss and Williams hit key shots for UNT following Taylor’s 3. Voss scored on an offenisve rebound to put UNT up 51-48, and Williams hit a jumper in the lane after UCA pulled back within one.
“We were cutting hard and I seemed to be open,” Williams said. “We talk a lot about one mores [the extra pass]. We had a lot of them tonight.”
Several of those passes went to Voss, a 6-7 bruiser who bulled his way to the basket all day and scored five points in the final 2:38 to help finish off UCA.
“They were smaller, didn’t have anyone who was 6-8 or 6-9 and were pretty light,” Voss said. “I knew that I was bigger and stronger than they were.”
UNT appeared as if it might ride that physical advantage to an easy win when the Mean Green went on a 12-2 run late in the first half and led 30-23 at halftime.
The Mean Green went 7-for-8 from the line during the run and outscored UCA 10-3 at the stripe in the first half.
UNT pushed its lead to 37-27 on a Williams 3 early in the second half before the Bears responded with a 12-1 run that McClure capped with a dunk.
McClure hit a 3 a short time later to give the Bears a 42-40 lead and put UNT on the verge of another demoralizing loss.
UCA has played one other Conference USA team this season and was blown out 97-54 by Louisiana Tech.
Instead of collapsing, UNT regrouped, made key plays late and started the process of recovering from a pair of tough losses.
“Overall it was a really good team effort for our guys,” Benford said. “We showed a lot of character in bouncing back from a tough loss like we had the other day.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.
North Texas 64, Central Arkansas 55
CENTRAL ARKANSAS (2-6) – Lee 2-4 0-0 4, Jackson 2-8 1-4 5, Glasco 6-8 0-1 12, McClure 7-16 7-9 23, Wells 0-5 0-0 0, Ball 1-3 0-3 2, Brown 0-1 0-0 0, Williamson 0-0 0-0 0, Rice 1-3 0-0 3, Drew 0-0 0-0 0, Berete 2-6 1-2 6. Totals 21-53 9-19 55.
NORTH TEXAS (6-5) – Voss 3-3 7-10 13, Coleman 2-3 0-0 4, Walton 1-1 0-0 3, A. Williams 3-10 4-4 10, J. Williams 4-9 2-3 11, Vaughns 0-6 4-4 4, Aniefiok 1-5 3-4 6, Flannigan 1-3 1-2 3, Taylor 4-8 1-3 10. Totals 19-48 22-30 64.
Halftime – UNT 30-23. 3-point goals – UCA 4-11 (Jackson 0-2, McClure 2-5, Wells 0-1, Brown 0-1, Rice 1-1, Berete 1-1), UNT 4-16 (Walton 1-1, A. Williams 0-1, J. Williams 1-4, Vaughns 0-2, Aniefiok 1-5, Taylor 1-3). Fouled out – Walton. Rebounds – UCA 28 (Jackson 10), UNT 43 (Voss 11). Assists – UCA 5 (Jackson, Wells, Ball, Rice, Berete), UNT (Vaughns 3). Total fouls – UCA 18, UNT 17. A – 3,664.