DENTON – It took an overtime period, but North Texas basketball is off to its first 7-0 start in five decades with a 74-63 win over Maine Tuesday night inside The Super Pit as the Mean Green held the Black Bears without a field goal throughout the final five minutes of the contest.
The Mean Green began the 1968-69 season with seven straight victories. The best start in program history occurred during the 1921-22 season as the team strung together eight consecutive wins.
scored a career-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting. His presence was much needed as UNT (7-0, 0-0 C-USA) connected on just six 3-pointers, a seemingly low number considering the team tied a program record by sinking 19 against Texas A&M-Commerce last Wednesday and were averaging over 11 from deep. Ryan Woolridge
scored 12 points for the Mean Green, DJ Draper
added 11, and Michael Miller
had 10. UNT performed well from the free throw line by hitting 20 of its 24 attempts.
"Shooting 83-percent from the free throw line really was the stat offensively for us that won the game," Head Coach Grant McCasland
With one second to play in regulation, Maine (0-5, 0-0 AEC) drove to the hoop and converted a layup to knot the game at 60-all. McCasland called a timeout and drew up a play for a full court pass directed at Simmons, but the ball sailed through his hands to force overtime. The Mean Green hit five-of-six free throws within the first two minutes of the extra period to take a 65-62 lead. Umoja Gibson
connected on a 3-pointer, and Woolridge converted a layup while being fouled and made the ensuing free throw to push UNT's lead to 71-63 with 1:35 on the clock. Michael Miller
then drained a three from the right wing as the Mean Green held Maine scoreless from the field throughout the entire period in the victory.
"We needed a game like this, and I'm proud of our guys and the way we finished. We are going to be able to teach a lot from this game," McCasland said.
Simmons took control of the paint early with a trio of scores on the first three Mean Green possessions on a pair of layups and a dunk for a 6-2 advantage. Woolridge made two layups as the shot clock expired, and Draper hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to put UNT up 13-6 five minutes into the contest.
made his return to the floor with two buckets as his fast break dunk stretched the lead to 21-10, and Gibson zipped a pass to Simmons who was fouled and finished his shot along with the free throw with 5:19 on the clock for a 27-16 score. Maine grabbed an offensive board and converted to the putback to close the gap to 31-28 with 2:31 to play until the half. A score in the lane by Simmons and two free throws from Draper gave the Mean Green a 35-23 lead heading into halftime.
The Black Bears pulled within 37-29 less than two minutes into the second half before Simmons sank two free throws and threw down a dunk to increase the lead back to 12 with 16:39 remaining. A fast break layup by Maine cut the deficit to 52-47 with 5:50 to play before four UNT free throws extended the lead back to nine. A three by the Black Bears made it a six-point contest with just over six minutes on the clock before Woolridge sank a pair from the line. A three from the left side and a layup placed the game within a possession at 58-55 with 24 seconds left to play. Gibson hit one-of-two free throws seconds later as the Black Bears called a timeout with 15.3 ticks to go. Maine connected on a three from the right wing to close within a point before Woolridge made the second of two from the line for a two-point edge.
"The crowd was tremendous," McCasland said. "It was fun for them to be involved in it, and they were huge down the stretch when we needed stops."
The Mean Green conclude play in The Wolfpack Classic Saturday at 3 p.m. in The Super Pit versus Saint Peter's.
- Maine took an early lead in the overtime period, which ended North Texas' streak of consecutive minutes without trailing. The Mean Green went 196 minutes and 36 seconds without trailing. UNT had last trailed against Portland on Nov. 10 early in the first half.