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Men's basketball: Mean Green has final word

Profile image for By Brett Vito / Staff Writer
By Brett Vito / Staff Writer

Cozy at home, UNT beats Cardinals after eventful weekend

The Super Pit never looked so good to North Texas.

UNT loves playing at home as much as the next team. The Mean Green just had to travel a long and winding road for its latest opportunity, one it took advantage of on Tuesday night in an 84-67 win over Incarnate Word.

The game was the Mean Green’s first since snapping a two-game losing streak with a double-overtime win over Portland on Saturday in its final game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Portland, Ore.

Inclement weather forced UNT (4-3) to take a rather long detour on its way home in time for its game against the Cardinals (5-1). The team couldn’t fly back to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and decided to fly to Houston and then drive to Denton.

Some of UNT’s players had to fly through Phoenix to get to Houston, where the team met and then tried to drive back to Denton. UNT’s bus broke down just two hours into the trip Sunday night.

The team didn’t make it back to campus until 3:30 a.m. Monday, which left precious little time to get ready for a game against Incarnate Word.

“Everyone played with intensity and play hard,” Mean Green head coach Tony Benford said. “Sometimes adversity reveals character. That was tough. It was a journey. We persevered.”

UNT’s players got their wake-up call to leave their hotel after Saturday night’s win over Portland at 5 a.m. Sunday and spent an entire day traveling.

UNT didn’t look any worse for the wear in a dominating performance against the Cardinals.

Jordan Williams led four UNT players in double figures with 19 points. Brandan Walton added a season-high 16, Alzee Williams had 14 and Vertrail Vaughns scored 11.

Mitchell Badillo scored 19 points to lead Incarnate Word, which caught a UNT team motivated to build on its win over Portland and overcome the adversity it faced on its journey home.

Benford credited UNT trainer E.J. Hairston and strength and conditioning coach Chris Seroka for helping the players recover from the journey, one the Mean Green’s players were happy was over.

“It was good to be back on our home floor after a long road trip and see our fans,” Walton said. “It was a good all-around game for us.”

UNT broke the game open with a 16-0 run early in the first half that included 3-pointers from Walton and Maurice Aniefiok. By halftime, the Mean Green led 42-16.

UNT cruised from there and led by as many as 28 points.

Benford was particularly pleased with UNT’s defensive effort. Incarnate Word shot just 24.1 percent (7-for-29) from the floor in the first half and went 5-for-16 from 3-point range on the night.

Incarnate Word closed the gap a little in the second half, when UNT appeared to be running out of gas after its long trip. Walton said he was headed for the cold tub immediately after the game.

UNT credited its performance to its desire to play and not let the circumstances surrounding their trip home affect them.

“It was tiring, but we wanted to play,” Williams said. “We had a meeting and talked about it. We had to get our treatment and fight through it. We kept our intensity today.”

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.

North Texas 84, Incarnate Word 67

INCARNATE WORD (5-1) — Markolf 3-9 0-1 6, Hittle 5-7 1-2 12, Livingston 1-11 2-2 5, Burmeister 3-10 4-4 13, Louwagie 0-0 0-0 0, Starkes 0-0 0-0 0, Badillo 5-11 9-10 19, Philippe 1-6 0-0 2, Johnson 1-4 0-0 2, Baker 0-2 0-0 0, Barry 0-0 0-0 0, Horton 4-11 0-0 8. Totals 23-71 16-19 67.

NORTH TEXAS (4-3) — Voss 1-2 3-4 5, Colemamn 1-3 2-6 4, Walton 5-9 2-2 16, A. Williams 6-11 2-4 14, Jones 1-4 2-2 4, Vaughns 2-6 6-6 11, Aniefiok 1-2 0-0 3, Flannigan 2-2 3-4 7, Taylor 0-6 1-4 1, J. Williams 7-14 4-6 19. Totals 26-59 25-38 84.

Halftime — UNT 42-16. 3-point goals – IW 5-16 (Hittle 1-2, Livingston 1-3, Burmeister 3-5, Badillo 0-3, Horton 0-3), UNT 7-15 (Walton 4-5, A. Williams 0-2, Jones 0-1, Vaughns 1-3, Aniefiok 1-1, Taylor 0-1, J. Williams 1-2). Fouled out – Markolf, Horton. Rebounds – IW 44 (Markolf, Livingston 8), UNT – 47 (J. Williams, Jones 8). Assists – IW 11 (Livingston 4), UNT13 (Jones 7). Total fouls – IW 23, UNT 21.