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Men's basketball: Defense sparks UNT to victory

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From news reports

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — North Texas head coach Tony Benford preaches that defense leads to offense, and on Monday afternoon his Mean Green proved him right in an 80-66 win over IUPUI in preseason NIT consolation action.

UNT (3-2) held the Jaguars (2-3) to 37.5 percent shooting and forced the transition tempo to the tune of 20 fast-break points — the most by the Mean Green since it had 23 against Houston Baptist in 2008. The result was a 49.3 UNT shooting percentage and 21 points and four blocks for All-America candidate Tony Mitchell.

“I thought that we came out focused and executed really well against a well-coached basketball team,” Benford said. “Chris Jones did such a great job of running the offense, and Roger Franklin is flat getting it done for us. I’m really proud of the way we played today.”

The Jones-to-Franklin connection was effective all afternoon. Jones racked up a season-high eight assists, and Franklin recorded his fifth career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

UNT will close out the preseason NIT with a game against Virginia at 6 p.m. today.

After starting the game in a 4-0 hole, UNT used its speed to get back into the game. Mitchell picked off a pass at midcourt and wowed the crowd with a windmill dunk, which spurred an 11-0 burst from the Mean Green.

Jordan Williams kept the momentum going with a pair of 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions that pushed UNT’s lead to 35-19 with five minutes remaining in the half. Williams finished with 13 points on 3-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc.

Mitchell piled up three first-half blocks to lead UNT into the halftime break with a 41-31 lead.

The Mean Green kept the pressure going in the second half and led by as many as 21 points.