DENTON — The North Texas basketball team is off to its first 8-0 start since the 1921-22 season after a 75-66 win over Saint Peter's on Saturday afternoon at the Super Pit. The 8-0 start matches the program's best start to a season in school history.
The Peacocks (1-4) led for the first four minutes of the game — the longest the Mean Green (8-0) had trailed in a game all year — as their full-court press, and zone defense put pressure on the UNT offense and forced North Texas into tough situations and didn't allow them to get in rhythm. .
After they got a couple buckets to fall and finally had some defensive stops the Mean Green were able to ease back in to their normal groove and take the lead.
"We got sped up and tried to do a little too much early in the game," said head coach Grant McCasland. "But in the second-half I thought we were more aggressive."
But with each punch North Texas seemed to give, with 6-0 or 8-0 runs, Saint Peter's had an answer and responded with a run of its own. They even retook the lead early in the first half after going on a 8-2 run to lead 39-38.
The game didn't open up until midway through the second-half when North Texas' defense forced three steals on three straight possessions in route to a 10-0 run that took less than a minute and increased UNT's lead to 19 points, which was the largest of the game and got the 2,000-plus fans in attendance loud.
"I just felt like we weren't that aggressive in attacking their zone at first," McCasland said. "We wanted to push the tempo and use our depth at guard and we finally were able to do that in the second half and punch the game open a bit."
While redshirt freshman Umoja Gibson led North Texas in scoring with 16 points, Saturday marked the return of the Mean Green's all-conference guard Roosevelt Smart who had missed the first seven games of the season nursing a minor injury sustained right before the start of season. Smart, who set the single season school scoring record last year while also crushing the school's single season three-point record, didn't start on Saturday and played sparingly but still was effective the defense had to keep its focus on him. Smart finished with 13 points and sunk two three-point attempts but also chipped in with four rebounds and three assists.
Dating back to last year, Smart has now scored in double figures in 10 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak on the team. His three assists on Saturday are actually tied for the most he's had in a game since the season-opener last year when he had four assists.
The Mean Green will go for a school record 9-0 start on Tuesday at Oklahoma when they take on the Sooners at 7:00 p.m. in Norman, Oklahoma. The game will be broadcasted on Fox Sports Oklahoma and on the radio on KNTU 88.1 FM, KHYI 95.3 FM or on the tuneIN app if you're out of the area.
- With the win, North Texas extends its winning streak to 10 in a row. It's the longest winning streak since UNT rallied off 11 wins in a row during the 2009-10 season.
- Saturday's win was the team's first against a school from New Jersey. Saint Peter's is located in Jersey City, New Jersey. Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Vermont are now the only states that has team's UNT has never won again. Alaska does not have a D1 program.
- Saturday was the fourth time this year Umoja Gibson led UNT in scoring.