CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Texas’ chance to post a key win was reduced to a simple equation Saturday night.
UNT had a shot with the score tied in the closing seconds of its game against Charlotte at Halton Arena.
So did the 49ers.
UNT squandered its opportunity and saw Charlotte capitalize in dramatic fashion and escape with a 76-74 win.
UNT had possession coming out of a timeout with 34.5 seconds left and got the ball to Brandan Walton, who missed a runner in the lane, leaving the door open for Charlotte.
That became particularly painful when Charlotte point guard Pierria Henry drove the lane and lofted the ball to Terrence Williams, who caught it and kissed it off the glass at the buzzer, giving the 49ers the victory.
“They got a stop and we didn’t get a stop,” UNT coach Tony Benford said. “[Henry] made a great play for them. The kid [Williams] made a great back cut. I give them all the credit.”
What made the ending all the more bitter for UNT was that it had been in position to make the key play just a few seconds before.
UNT (10-8, 1-3 Conference USA) tried to get the ball to T.J. Taylor, who pitched the ball to Walton after Charlotte (12-5, 3-1) cut him off.
The senior was having one of his best nights of the season but couldn’t come through in the closing seconds.
Charlotte prevented the Mean Green from sweeping a two-game road trip that began with a win over Marshall.
UNT entered its two-game trip talking about making up for losing its first two C-USA games at home.
“It was tough,” UNT guard Chris Jones said. “Sometimes it doesn’t go your way. Sometimes it does. That was a tough one at the end.”
That was especially true on a night UNT played well against what might be one of C-USA’s top teams.
The floater Walton missed was his only miss from the field on a night he went 4-for-5 and scored 13 points to lead four UNT players in double figures. Jordan Williams scored 12 points, Colin Voss 11 and Taylor 10 for the Mean Green, which shot 50.9 percent from the field.
Terrence Williams scored 16 points and Henry added 14 for Charlotte, which has wins over Michigan and Kansas State this season.
UNT has a few solid wins of its own, including one over Texas A&M, and appeared to be on its way to another when it led by as many as 11 in the second half. UNT still had a 70-62 edge with 5:04 remaining after Walton hit a free throw.
Henry responded by taking the ball straight down the court, stopping at the top of the key and sticking a 3-pointer.
That play seemed to swing the momentum in Charlotte’s favor. The Mean Green scored just four more points the rest of the way on a pair of Jordan Williams layups.
“That’s what really hurt us,” Jones said. “They got shots up. We turned the ball over and they came down and scored.”
UNT turned the ball over three times after taking its late eight-point lead, including one that was particularly costly with 55.8 seconds left and the Mean Green up 74-72. Charlotte pressed and forced a turnover when a loose ball that was originally tipped by Henry went off Jones before going out of bounds.
Officials ruled that the ball went off Henry before going to the replay monitor and reversing the call.
Jones maintained after the game that he didn’t touch the ball.
Charlotte cashed in on the opportunity when Terrence Williams hit a layup to tie the game.
UNT had a chance to answer but didn’t get the shot it wanted.
“I wanted to get it to T.J. coming off the double ball screen, which we did,” Benford said. “They did a good job of covering and he pitched it to Brandan, who thought he had a lane and pulled up and shot it. He’s a senior and has made some big shots, but I wanted to get it back to Chris Jones, who played well and could have made a play.”
Walton thought he could have gotten off a better shot.
“I got a good look at it, but I probably should have pulled up and shot it instead of going with the floater,” Walton said.
The miss opened the door for Henry, who capitalized by getting the ball to Terrence Williams for the game winner.
“That’s just a good player making a good play,” Charlotte coach Alan Major said.
That one play made all the difference in a game that came down to one shot for each team.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.
Charlotte 76, North Texas 74
NORTH TEXAS (10-8, 1-3) – Gaines 0-0 0-0 0, Voss 4-10 3-4 11, Vaughns 2-6 0-0 5, Jones 4-9 0-1 9, J. Williams 6-9 0-0 12, Aniefiok 3-6 0-0 8, Walton 4-5 4-5 13, A. Williams 2-3 0-0 4, Flannigan 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor 2-5 6-6 10, Coleman 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 28-55 13-16 74.
CHARLOTTE (12-5, 3-1) – Clayton 4-6 4-9 12, Thorne Jr. 2-4 1-2 5, Williams 6-12 4-4 16, Henry 6-9 0-0 14, Cherry3-6 1-2 9, Lester 5-7 0-0 11, Ingram 2-6 0-0 4, Blakley 0-2 0-0 0, Bryan 2-3 1-2 5. Totasl 30-55 11-19 76.
Halftime – Charlotte 40-37. 3-point goals – UNT 5-11 (Voss 0-1, Vaughns 1-1, Jones 1-1, J. Williams 0-1, Aniefiok 2-4, Walton 1-1, Taylor 0-2), Charlotte 5-15 (Williams 0-2, Henry 2-4, Cherry 2-5, Lester 1-2, Ingram 0-1, Blakely 0-1). Fouled out – none. Rebounds – UNT 29 (J. Williams, Jones, Taylor 6), Charlotte 29 (Clayton 12). Assists – UNT 10 (Jones 5), Charlotte 18 (Henry 8). Total fouls – UNT 20, Charlotte 14. A –5,780.