DENTON — Nearly a year to the day that he gruesomely broke his leg in the first half at Nebraska, redshirt freshman Umoja Gibson returned to the court on Tuesday in a fury.
In 24 minutes, Gibson unloaded for 32 points on 10-of-14 shooting to lead the Mean Green men's basketball team to a season-opening 89-55 win over Angelo State at the Super Pit.
"I had the jitterbugs at first but once I got that first one to go down the rest fell," Gibson said. "It was hard watching (last year) but it was fun to see our team win. I learned a lot during my time out,"
In the two games he played last season, Gibson started both and scored 19 in the season-opener versus Eureka College. Tuesday night, the Waco, Texas, native was 7 of 11 from deep and did most of his work in the second-half, scoring 25 after intermission and leading UNT (1-0) on multiple double-digit runs versus the Lone Star Conference's Rams.
"I'm not surprised," head coach Grant McCasland said. "But this is where we're dangerous. Ryan (Woolridge) guarded the ball the entire game. He worked hard and that freed up Mo."
Woolridge guarded ASU's Collin Turner for most of the game and held him to just two points on 1-of-6 shooting. Turner is a newcomer to Angelo State but transferred from Montgomery College, where as a sophomore he averaged 28 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists per game while shooting 42.4 percent from three, resulting in him being named NJCAA DIII Player of the Year and NJCAA First-Team All-America.
Offensively Tuesday, Woolridge did what put him in the UNT record books last season. He used his athleticism to attack and find open shooters, finishing with 10 assists and chipping in with eight points. It's the sixth time the junior has had 10 or more assists in a game and was one shy of tying his single-game career-high. Woolridge set a program-record last season with 221 assists. Combined with 67 his freshman season, Woolridge entered this season in the top five in program history. Following his 10 assists on Tuesday, he moved into fourth place.
"Ryan's pace took over the game," McCasland said. "We share the ball really well."
Redshirt junior DJ Draper was the recipient of a few of those Woolridge assists. The former walk-on made five 3-pointers Tuesday and finished wih 19 points, his second best scoring outing in his three years in Denton and his best on the Super Pit floor.
As a team, UNT made 14 3-pointers, which tied for the sixth most in a single game in school history.
North Texas travels to Hawaii to play in the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic. It will play three games in three days, starting with Humboldt State on Friday at 8:30 p.m. CT. Only Sunday's game will be streamed online but all three games will be aired on KHYI 95.3 FM, KNTU 88.1 FM and the TuneIN app.
- North Texas has won six consecutive season-openers
- The Mean Green have won five straight home games dating back to last season
- Grant McCasland is 15-6 all-time at home
- In the three games he's played, Gibson is averaging 17.6 points per game.