North Texas on Tuesday announced a series of events surrounding the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year’s Day.
UNT will face UNLV at 11 a.m. at the Cotton Bowl in its first bowl appearance since the 2004 New Orleans Bowl.
The school will host a New Year’s Eve party from 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Tower Club at 1601 Elm St. in Dallas. The event will take place on the 48th floor and will include heavy hors d’oeuvres, live music from The Project, a cash bar and party favors.
UNT also will host a pregame tailgate event at the Embarcadero Building at Fair Park. Those who attend will receive two breakfast tacos. The UNT marching band, cheerleaders and dance team will appear at the event.
UNT is selling tickets to both events for $75 per person.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl will mark the eighth bowl game appearance for UNT.
“I am hoping that the Mean Green nation will really respond and come support this team,” UNT coach Dan McCarney said after the Mean Green received an invitation to the game. “It’s not just winning our ninth game and being a part of history here — we are also sending a message for the future. Do fans support you and go to bowl games or don’t they support you and go to bowl games? We are right down the road in the Cotton Bowl. You build a reputation and a tradition with how your fans will travel.
“It’s been awhile since we have been to a bowl game. We need to refresh everyone’s memories around the country that North Texas will travel. Their fans will come and have a great time.”
A UNT spokesman said that the school had sold close to 7,000 tickets as of Tuesday afternoon. UNT is hoping sales will pick up now that it has announced the events it has scheduled surrounding the game.
Jones could return Saturday
Starting point guard Chris Jones could return to North Texas’ starting lineup as soon as this weekend after missing the Mean Green’s win over Central Arkansas on Tuesday morning with a strained muscle in his back.
Jones has been battling the injury for several days but did not miss a game until Tuesday.
UNT turned to Alzee Williams and Vertrail Vaughns to fill the void and pulled away from the Bears late for a 64-55 win.
“Hopefully Chris will be back on Saturday,” UNT coach Tony Benford said. “It’s a strained muscle. We are not going to rush him back.”
Jones is UNT’s best playmaker and has 36 assists on the season, more than double any other player on the roster.
Benford said he was pleased with the way Williams and Vaughns played while filling the void left by Jones’ absence against UCA. Williams scored 10 points to go along with two assists and two steals, while Vaughns had three assists and four points, although he did commit a game-high five turnovers.
Dawkins to have surgery
Junior guard BreAnna Dawkins will have surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn meniscus in her knee today after being injured in the Mean Green’s game against Texas-Arlington this month.
Dawkins also suffered a fracture in a fall and will miss the rest of the season. The former Cedar Hill standout averaged 6.5 points per game on the season and did not accompany UNT on its road trip to Colorado that continued with a game against Denver on Tuesday night.
UNT coach Mike Petersen said that UNT will turn to Desiree Nelson and Taylor Hooker to fill the void.
Nelson, a senior guard, is averaging 5.9 points per game, while Hooker is expected to make her UNT debut in the next few weeks after transferring from Tulsa.
“We will miss Bre’s competitiveness and toughness,” Petersen said.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.