DENTON — The North Texas men's basketball team erased a first-half double digit-deficit at Rice to eventually win by 16, 103-87, and start conference 1-0 and improve to 13-1 overall.
The Mean Green (13-1, 1-0 C-USA) had three players score 20-plus points and junior Ryan Woolridge
had his second double-double of the year as he finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds and no turnovers.
After the Owls (5-9, 0-1 C-USA) jumped out to its strong start by sinking six three pointers in the first 13 minutes of the game, UNT worked its way back into the game by dominating the paint, where they outscored Rice 50-26 by the end of the game.
"Give Rice credit, they play fast and had us on our heels to start the game," said head coach Grant McCasland
. "It was like we were in a tornado. But we started guarding the ball. We put pressure on the ball and it started to open up for us."
In the final three minutes of the first-half, North Texas went on a 17-1 run to take a 48-43 lead at the midway point.
In the second-half the Mean Green continued to expand on its lead by taking care of the ball and scoring second chance points.
UNT finished with just four turnovers to Rice's 10 and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, which turned into 19 second chance points.
"If you're a real basketball player who loves to play, this was a great game to play in," McCasland said. "We started getting some stops and it really opened up for us."
North Texas continued to pound the paint.
Sophomore forward Zachary Simmons
finished the game 10-of-11 from the field and scored 22 points and eight rebounds.
The paint points then opened up Roosevelt Smart
. Who knocked down four three-pointers and finished with a season-best 20 points.
With the win, the Mean Green have now won 18 of its last 20 games, dating back to the start of the College Basketball Invitation. It is the first time in program history they've ever won 18 of 20. Furthermore, UNT extends its winning streak to five in a row and is now 4-1 on the road.
North Texas has now won three in a row over the Owls.
They host Louisiana Tech on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. The Mean Green are riding an 11-game home winning streak. Thursday's game will be a throwback Thursday game. Tickets can be purchased
for just $5 and concession item prices are heaivily reduced to 1970s prices to honor the great teams of the era.