North Texas endured some anxious moments on Friday night, when the Mean Green broke in its brand new court at the Super Pit.
UNT brought in Oklahoma City, an NAIA school, for its first exhibition game of the season, which also happened to be its first game on a new court that was installed this week.
For a little while, it appeared as if the Stars might be the stars of the night.
OCU led by one at half and was within two with just over six minutes left before the Mean Green pulled away for a 78-70 win that was a little too close for comfort.
“We have a lot of work to do,” UNT head coach Tony Benford said. “That is why I decided to play two exhibition games. We have some new guys and want to get everyone used to game competition. This game exposed some things we need to work on and we are going to work on them.”
The biggest of those issues were on defense, where UNT committed 27 fouls that led to OCU shooting 42 free throws. Officials have been instructed to crack down on hand-check fouls this season.
The change is something UNT will have to adjust to in the next few days before opening its season on Nov. 8 against Northwood. The Mean Green will play its second exhibition game on Monday at home against Southeastern Oklahoma State.
“It’s real tough trying to guard people without hand-checking,” UNT guard Jordan Williams said. “We work on it every day and will have to get better at it.”
Fortunately for UNT, it played well enough offensively to overcome giving up 70 points.
Chris Jones scored a game-high 16 points to lead four UNT players in double figures. Williams scored 12 points, while Keith Coleman added 11 and T.J. Taylor 10.
Terry Johnson scored 15 points to pace OCU, which hung with the Mean Green up until late in the second half.
UNT led just 58-56 before Taylor scored four points — two on a layup and two more on a pair of free throws — during a 10-2 run. Brandan Walton capped the surge with a 3-pointer that put UNT up 68-58.
UNT coasted from there after recovering from a tough start.
The Mean Green trailed 35-34 after a tightly contested first half that saw eight lead changes and neither team lead by more than four.
The Mean Green had a 34-31 lead late in the first half before OCU scored the final four points, including a Johnson layup, that gave the Stars a surprising halftime lead.
“We came out lackadaisical,” Jones said. “We can’t do that if we want to win games. Coach yelling at us is what turned it around at halftime. We wanted it more in the second half and picked it up.”
UNT prevented OCU from spoiling the debut of its new court in the process.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.
North Texas 78, Oklahoma City 70
OKLAHOMA CITY — Smith 2-5 4-6 8, Walker 5-8 0-1 10, Johnson 5-13 5-7 15, Donavan 0-1 1-2 1, Crayton 1-5 7-10 9, McGhee 0-0 0-0 0, Sane 1-4 0-0 2, Bonhomme 1-4 2-2 5, Matip 0-2 5-8 5, Campbell 3-7 5-6 12, Gigger 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 19-50 29-42 70.
NORTH TEXAS — Flannigan 3-5 0-2 6, Vaughns 1-5 2-2 4, J. Williams 3-14 6-9 12, A. Williams 3-9 3-5 9, Jones 5-12 6-7 16, Aniefiok 2-5 0-1 5, Walton 2-5 0-1 5, Taylor 3-8 3-5 10, Coleman 5-7 1-4 11. Totals 27-70 21-36 78.
Halftime — OCU, 35-34. 3-point goals — OCU 3-13 (Smith 0-2, Johnson 0-2, Crayton 0-2, Bonhomme 1-3, Campbell 1-3, Gigger 1-3), UNT 3-17 (J. Williams 0-6, A. Williams 0-1, Jones 0-2, Aniefiok 1-2, Walton 1-3, Taylor 1-3). Fouled out — Crayton, Walton. Rebounds — OCU 41 (Smith 7), UNT 47 (Flannigan 10). Assists — OCU 8 (Donovan 4), UNT 10 (Jones 4). Total fouls — OCU 28, UNT 27. A — 2,135.