DENTON — The North Texas men's basketball team tied the program-record for the best start in school-history at 14-1 with a 63-59 win over Louisiana Tech Thursday night at the Super Pit.
The Mean Green's Zachary Simmons
layed in a clutch basket with 22 seconds left in the game to give UNT a two-point win and then senior Jorden Duffy
sank two free throws with three seconds left to seal the two possession win.
"We find ways to win," said head coach Grant McCasland
. "We trust Zachary (Simmons) to make big plays at the end of games. He proved early on that he has a great sense of urgency late in games and he did it again tonight."
North Texas (14-1, 2-0 C-USA) jumped out on LA Tech (11-4, 1-1 C-USA) to a 19-point lead midway through the first-half thanks to a 16-0 run. The Bulldogs though would crawl back into the game by using their size to block shots and force turnovers and create points in transition.
LA Tech outscored North Texas on fast breaks 15-3.
"We did a great job rebounding and limiting their size in the first-half," McCasland said. "But not in the second-half."
North Texas held the Bulldogs to 8-of-28 shooting in the first half while they sank 15 of its 28 first-half shots. Seniors Michael Miller
and Jorden Duffy
were critical in opening up the lead for the Mean Green as they did a bunch of everything. From rebounding, to scoring in the paint and hitting open three-pointers, the seniors carried much of the team in its first-half 16-0 run.
Duffy made his first three three-pointers of the game while Miller, who is one the nation's top guards at scoring from inside the arc, was 5-for-5 on shots inside the paint in the first-half.
In the second-half the Bulldogs size forced North Texas into bad situations and forced them to make unusual turnovers that brought LA Tech back into the game. LA Tech tied North Texas with 1:32 left in the game.
"Basketball is a game of runs," Miller said. "Credit to them. They are a big, quick and talented team. We made some mistakes and they capitalized."
With the game on the line, McCasland knew exactly who he was giving the ball to for a clutch bucket.
"In the first scrimmage he played in as a freshman against Houston Baptist he made a number of huge baskets for us late in that game," McCasland said. "From then on out we knew we could trust him and rely on him late in games."
Simmons' layup underneath the basket gave him a team-high 16 points and his team a two-point lead. After a Bulldogs timeout, North Texas forced them into taking a tough shot that was missed and grabbed by Duffy who was fouled and sent to the line with a chance to put the game out of reach.
Needing the two free throws to not only win the game but increase his season average to double digits, Duffy made them both to give him 13 points and the Mean Green their sixth win in a row and 14th of the year.
North Texas is now 14-1 for the first time since 1952-53 when they also started 14-1. UNT has never started a year 15-1. They'll go for the program-record 15-1 start on Saturday at 5:00 pm versus Southern Miss at the Super Pit.
Furthermore, the Mean Green have now started conference play 2-0 in consecutive years for the first time since 1987-88 and 1988-89 in they played in the Southland Conference.
- With the win over Louisiana Tech, the Mean Green are off to a 14-1 start in 2018-19 which ties the program record. (1952-53, when they also opened 14-1).
- UNT has also won 12 straight at home dating back to last season.
- UNT is now 8-0 at home this season, the best start to a season at home since 2010-11, when the Mean Green opened 12-0 as part of a 17-game home winning streak that dated back to 2009-10.
- The Mean Green have won 19 of their last 21 games dating back to last season, the best stretch in program history.
- Head coach Grant McCasland has opened both of his seasons in Denton with 2-0 Conference USA starts.
- It marks the first time in 30 years that North Texas has opened conference play at 2-0 in back-to-back seasons (1987-88 and 1988-89, as a member of the Southland Conference).
- North Texas did not pick up its 14th win of the season last year until Feb. 8 at UAB
- Guard Jorden Duffy scored 13 points Thursday night in the win over Louisiana Tech, which lifted his per game scoring average back into double figures for the season.
- Six players on the Mean Green roster are now averaging double figures on the season (Ryan Woolridge, Umoja Gibson, Duffy, Roosevelt Smart, Michael Miller and Zachary Simmons)
- Duffy now has 12 career games in double figures
- Guard Michael Miller scored 13 points in the win over Louisiana Tech Thursday night, marking his 10th career game in double figures, and fifth in his last six games dating back to the win at Indiana State on 12/5 in Terre Haute, Indiana.
- In 12 career starts for Miller, the Mean Green are 11-1, including a 6-0 mark this season
- UNT utilized a 16-0 run midway through the first half to build a 19 point lead, its largest of the game.
- Forward Zachary Simmons finished with 16 points, his second straight game scoring in double figures (had 22 in the win at Rice last Saturday).