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Notebook: UNT to get early jump on signing class during midterm period

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

North Texas is expected to get a jump on its 2018 signing class during the NCAA's new early signing period on Wednesday.

Junior college football players who transferred at midterm always have been able to sign during the December signing period. This will be the first year high school players can sign early.

The change will add intrigue to the early period for teams across the country, including UNT, which is expected to sign at least a few players early. Butler County College defensive end Darrian McMillan and Mt. San Antonio College linebacker/defensive end Josh Saafi committed to UNT earlier this fall and said they will sign their letters of intent in the early period.

UNT also will have at least two of the high school players who have committed to join its 2018 class sign on Wednesday.

Ennis safety Kevyon Davis announced on Tuesday he has committed to play for the Mean Green. He later confirmed he will sign today.

Aubrey offensive lineman Jordan Redfearn is also set to sign with UNT on Wednesday. 

UNT has 16 players committed heading into the midterm period, including three junior college prospects. Mississippi Gulf Coast running back Deandre Torrey also has committed to UNT and is another potential midterm addition for the Mean Green.

The weeks leading up to the new signing period have been frantic for UNT, which played in the Conference USA title game on Dec. 2 and the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday. 

"It's a positive and a negative," UNT coach Seth Littrell said in a statement in advance of signing day. "You're playing a championship game that first week of recruiting and you come back and get one week, and if you have an early bowl, you pretty much get one weekend before signing day.

"You're still trying to prep for a bowl and recruit. But they set the rules, and we live by them. I can't sit and worry about it. Do I love it? No. But would I trade it for playing in championship game and a great bowl? Not a chance."

The Mean Green enter the midterm period off a 50-30 loss to Troy in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday. The loss marked UNT's second straight season that ended in a bowl.

The Mean Green lost to Army in overtime in the Heart of Dallas Bowl at the end of Litrell's first season at UNT in 2016.

UNT lost to Florida Atlantic in the C-USA title game 41-17.

"I feel like we are set up for long-term success," Littrell said in the days leading up to the bowl. "One of our main goals was to set a foundation for continued success and not be a one-hit wonder. We are still going to have to evaluate that in the offseason and finish up strong in recruiting."

UNT is in position to to just that heading into the midterm signing period.  The Mean Green's class in currently ranked sixth out of 13 teams in Conference USA by 247Sports.

Western Kentucky currently has the highest rated class, followed by Florida International and Louisiana Tech.

UNT's midterm signing class could provide an immediate boost to a defense that struggled at times this season. The Mean Green allowed 35 points per game and will lose a few key contributors, including safety Kishawn McClain, defensive end Andy Flusche and cornerback Eric Jenkins.

The opportunity for immediate playing time appealed to McMillan. 

"North Texas is on the rise," McMillan said. "I feel like I can come in and compete right away."

Men's basketball

UNT to take on Georgetown on Wednesday

UNT will look to build on a three-game winning streak Wednesday, when the Mean Green will take on Georgetown in a game pitting teams on a roll. 

UNT knocked off San Diego 86-83 in overtime in its last game on Saturday, its second overtime win during its current run. The Mean Green beat Indiana State 79-76 in extra time on Dec. 6.

Georgetown also is coming off an overtime game. The Hoyas lost to Syracuse, one of its traditional rivals, 86-79 on Saturday.

Roosevelt Smart has been on a tear for UNT heading into Wednesday. The sophomore guard scored a career-high 31 points against San Diego and has scored in double figures in eight straight games while boosting his scoring average to 18.5 points per game.

The challenge for UNT will be competing with Georgetown inside. Jessie Govan, a 6-10 center, leads the Hoyas with 20.7 points and 12.4 rebounds per game.

Georgetown is averaging 81.7 points per game and pulls down 9.7 more rebounds per game than its opponents.

Women's basketball

UNT looking to bounce back from loss

UNT has run out to one of the best starts in recent program history behind a stout defense.

The Mean Green (7-3) will lean on that defense once again today when they take on Eastern Illinois at 6 p.m. in Charleston.

UNT has been C-USA's best defensive team all season and leads the league with 50.1 points allowed per game. That average took a bit of a hit after the Mean Green struggled in their last outing, a 70-67 loss to Illinois-Chicago on Monday.

UNT led by UIC six entering the fourth quarter before the Flames closed the game on a 21-12 run.

The 70 points UNT allowed were a season high. 

"Defensively, we weren't who we've been," UNT coach Jalie Mitchell said after the game.

UNT lost despite a standout game from Terriell Bradley. The  junior finished with 27 points, but she was called for traveling with 18 seconds left the the Mean Green down two. Bradley slammed the ball into the floor, was called for a technical foul and UIC hung on for the win. 

UNT will have an opportunity to bounce back against an EIU team that is only 1-8 on the season.

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