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Basketball Basketball Recaps

North Texas Bests UTSA In Both Women’s and Men’s Basketball

In San Antonio, Jalie Mitchell’s squad cruised to a 79-55 win in a game played at 11am. In Denton, Grant McCasland’s group dominated UTSA at home while celebrating the 2009-2010 Sun Belt Champ squad led by Johnny Jones.

WBB cruised all game. UTSA cut the lead to 15 late but that was about all they could muster. Jalie said “there isn’t much to complain about.” True dat.

The men dominated throughout although Jhivvan Jackson got his team within five midway through the second half. NT responded to the run, and pulled away for a bit win. Honoring the 2010 team was a good moment and a nice link to the last time NT MBB were yearly contenders.

UTSA men is a terrible defensive team and NT took full advantage. Umoja Gibson had 27, and Javion Hamlet got 22. NT worked Jackson in the pick-and-roll early and often and made UTSA work. Jackson was able to put up some numbers but NT kept them at a distance, forcing him to get in the paint and pull up from distance with a hand in his face or from the logo.

Basketball always favors the offense, and the goal of defense is to force low-percentage shots and not necessarily prevent makes. It is a mitigation strategy. If he is going to make them from that distance that is a win for the defense. NT dominated and continues its dance around the top seed in the league. There is plenty of basketball to play so no one should get comfortable, but right now the team is playing really good basketball.

It is okay to smile.

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North Texas Women Lose To Rice 61-43

North Texas lost in the quarterfinal round to Rice 61-43 and it was the slow, inevitable kind of game against a superior opponent that happens. Though the venue is a ‘home’ one, the crowd was light on green and had a good sprinkling of Rice fans.

The early start didn’t help, and the grinding game that NT succeeded with against Southern Miss got away from them late, as the Owl found easy buckets from their 6’9″ center Nancy Mulkey and star Erica Ogwumike.

North Texas got good contributions from Madi Townley and her smooth midrange jumper — she was 5/9 for 11 pints and 8 boards.

NT tried to attack the big center through Deja Terrell and Charlene Shepherd with some success. Ultimately, a friendly Rice whistle and lack of length combined to do them in.

Mulkey was able to get easy layups to kill runs or draw fouls to stop momentum. While NT forced her out of the post a couple times and into turnvoers — travelling violations — she did enough blocking of shots or bothering or challenging NT player drives to keep NT from scoring comfortably.

When she sat, NT could not take full advantage. Terriell Bradley, the senior scorer for NT, did nto have one of her typical games. She missed a layup after taking on the whole Rice squad and getting into the lane.

Her midrange game was short all night, perhaps on account of playing just yesterday. All told, a good portion of the performance can probably be attributed to the game yesterday. It was hard-fought, and there was only a short break.

Two straight years with at least one tournament win for Jalie Mitchell in the Frisco version of this tournament.

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Basketball

2019 CUSA Tournament Day 2: More Mean Green

Both basketball squads were in action yesterday and both produced quality wins. The men are always going to get a little more praise than the women, but Jalie Mitchell has the more recent tournament success.

Last year NT rode a pair of upsets into the semi-final round before losing to eventual winners WKU. This year they beat 8th-seeded Southern Miss in an ugly game to earn the right to take on top-seeded Rice at 11am.

The last time NT took on Rice — then ranked #25, now ranked #24 — deep into the game with the Owls pulling away in the 4th quarter to win. Rice is undefeated in league play, and is led by 6’9″ Nancy Mulkey and 5’9″ Erica Ogwumike.

After the last matchup Jalie Mitchell was quoted as saying

Our players and staff believe we can beat Rice and play with anybody in this league. I thought we played hard for 40 minutes, and I think we will be prepared to win as many games as possible,

Jalie Mitchell

The men have a giant hurdle to overcome as well in WKU, the most talented team in the league led by imposing 6’11” Charles Bassey.

The last time WKU visited the DFW area, the beat NT with a dominant first-half in front of a huge Super Pit crowd. The beginning of the now well-known shooting woes began there.

Still, NT always plays a little bigger than their short-stature suggests and there is hope. F Zach Simmons played outside of his mind yesterday, and Umoja Gibson looked like the sharp shooter he needs to be when he didn’t have to take ball handling duties. With Ryan Woolridge and Jordan Duffy back in their normal roles, everything resembled the look this team had early in the season when they were top-four contenders and not also-rans.

It was just a little over a month ago that we all thought the WKU game in Denton was a preview for pod play and not the beginning of a slide down the standings. Whatever the case, this team’s road to the NCAA tournament was never going to be with a regular season resume.

It, was and still is, all about the league tournament.

So here we are, the most talented team in the league with the best team in the conference possibly waiting after that. This is what we all wanted from North Texas.

North Texas vs WKU

Line: WKU -3.5
Kenpom: 43%

Let us be honest: the numbers say we are bad offensively, good offensively, and do not match up well in any significant category.

The real question of course, is if any of that matters come 8:30pm on Court A.

Basketball is a weird game in which it is heavily reliant on a team, but then can become an individual sport in one or two crucial moments. Teams need to run the offense for the majority of the game, but when it comes to winning time, sometimes the best strategy is giving the ball to your best player and having him make a play.

North Texas fans have quibbled over who that guy is on this roster. My vote is probably Ryan Woolridge, given he can get to the rim seemingly at will. His issue, aside from recent injury, is his outside shooting and well, his free throw shooting.

Those are two big areas that can and do limit his ability to deliver in the clutch.

When you think of the league’s best — Jhivvan Jackson, Jon Elmore, DaQuan Bracey and the like — you think of players that can get a bucket when their teams need it.

WKU has something like a similar problem. Their whole roster is stacked — Bassey, G/F Josh Anderson, Lamonte Bearden, Taveion Hollingsworth — but unlike last season when Justin Johnson was the go-to guy, I do not know who gets the ball in crunch time here.

If North Texas can stay close to Western until the end, I like their chances late. The crowd will be decidedly pro-green, and that can make a difference. Western has blown some big leads this season, and that is evidence of a lack of execution and experience. They are vulnerable despite being talented.

How to Win

Zach Simmons needs to be match Bassey inside. We cannot expect another 7/7 performance but the aggression and decisiveness he showed vs FIU is key. Bassey will not let Simmons get position or go up with power, and Zach cannot help him by being passive or trying one too many post moves.

Mike Miller is the only other consistent scorer who can get the rim not named Ryan Woolridge. He was attacking on the catch — the whole squad was — and that is the kind of play NT needs.

Umoja Gibson was incredible shooting yesterday, and he probably regresses a bit so NT will need one of Smart or Duffy to take up that burden.

Roosevelt Smart is and should be more of a scorer than a shooter. He was off yesterday, even missing a wide open shot where he had a chance to spin the rock before letting it fly. He can get to the bucket and finish, and more of that is needed.

Gibson said WKU baited them into shooting too many threes early in the last matchup. I imagine the whole staff is aware of that for this game.

North Texas can beat WKU but it will require some good fortune. Every major contributor played big minutes vs FIU and had to break the press for the entire second-half. That kind of thing takes a toll. I imagine we will see some poor shooting tonight.

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North Texas Women Advance, Beat Southern Miss 49-46

North Texas women’s basketball is on to face Rice in the next round after beating USM 49-46 in the first game of the first round of the women’s tournament in Frisco.

This year’s basketball tournament began on a cold and blustery day, and perhaps as cliche as that can sound, it is nonetheless true.

The women had a good performance last season, beating Charlotte and Louisiana Tech in upsets before losing to eventual winners WKU. They began this year’s contest against Southern Miss, something like an evenly matched squad that finished just one seed higher.

The first quarter was ugly — as might be expected from two teams playing at 11am. That’s a rec-league basketball time, not tournament level stuff.

The second-period was all NT — they took a nice 26-14 lead to the half and it was through Charlene Shepherd and Terriell Bradley that they did it. The calm, bucket-getting Bradley made some tough shots even though she was upset with some of the hacking USM was doing. Shepherd had 7 in the period to go with an assist and three rebounds.

Both Bradley and Shepherd visibly complained to refs about what they thought were fouls throughout the game. It was rough and chippy, and the referees let them play on despite it.

The third quarter was all USM’s Shonte Hailes. Through floaters and jumpshots, she single-handedly pulled USM back. NT held on to a one-point lead after being outscored 21-10 in the quarter.

NT shot just 30% in the quarter, missing shots and turning the ball over. Anisha George missed two layups and rolled her eyes in disgust at her own performance. She was consoled by her team afterward.

NT got good looks and had chances but just could not make them or take advantage of them.

The fourth began the same way. Missed shots from Owens and Deja Terrell — on a break, from a nice pass from Smith. USM did not have all the luck either, with Megan Brown turning the ball over underneath her own basket unguarded.

With 7 minutes left it was 37 – 36 NT, and Bradley checked back in. Both team struggled for a while. The game changer wasnt wearing 23 however. Velma Mtichell and Trena Mims both hit huge buckets. Mitchell hit a three on her first touch after checking in, and Mims drew three fouls for six freebies.

She wasn’t perfect from the line, but that aggression slowed the game down and got NT good looks and allowed them to set their defense.

With :40 left and NT clinging to a two-point lead courtesy of Terriell Badley’s two free throws, Charlene Shepherd fould Shonte Hailes. Hailes hit her head on the floor after falling awkwardly and left the game. USM missed the second of two free throws and that but got the rebound.

The furious 30-seconds that followed saw a layup missed by USM, a rebound by Leaphart, a block and finally a UNT rebound by Shephard.

Bradley was fouled on the ensuing possession and drained both. NT up 49-46 with just :07 remaining. Both threes from USM were off the mark. NT won.

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North Texas Loses to WKU In Semifinal

There have been celebrities at every NT game. This time it was the bachelorette.  Apparently she and her fiancé are here for this. She is covering the game and he is tagging along. The celebrity quotient remains high for North Texas basketball games. This time noted Saints LB and NT alumnus Craig Robertson brought his kid in tow. That makes us similar, as I brought mine. Also in attendance was recent combine attendee Jeff Wilson.

All were there to see the Cinderella team of the women’s bracket. After dispatching 6th ranked Charlotte and 3rd ranked Louisiana Tech the NT women were facing an even greater challenge in this conference tournament. The other part of survive and advance that is frequently unstated: Survive and Advance to Face An Even Better Opponent.

WKU’s Ivy Brown boasts an approximate 17/10/1.5 block per game split and performed to average in Denton earlier this season on the way to a 14-point Topper win. This is a different North Texas team, one which does not require the regular season depth. Instead they had been relying on the standbys and that had carried them throughout this magical tourney run.

Jalie Mitchell said as much after the Tech game: She was going to rely on her girls to do what is needed.

Early, the two squads felt each other out and WKU looked a little hesitant. North Texas missed some drives to the bucket, but then started to get the luck. Micayla Buckner had a smooth spin and score that ignited the crowd, and Grace Goodheart faked a pass and got a rolling lay-in. North Texas was up 8-6 after Terriell Bradley got a bucket and the foul.

Western’s Tashia Brown was silent through the first with only two points on 0/5 shooting. NT sold out to front the post to any both talented post players from getting in the paint and wreaking havoc. Speaking of selling out, early on Brittany Smith flew down the court to knock the ball away from Ivy Brown after Brown had a breakaway. NT looked to be doing the things required of underdogs.

Western’s play of the first quarter was Sidnee Bopp firing an 27-foot three to beat the clock. NT had done well to keep the Lady Toppers out of the paint but Western would figure out a different way to attack.

After one quarter it was NT 14 WKU 13.


During the quarter break there was some underhanded play — both rebounders in the little timeout game were knocking the ball away from the opponent. That’s the kind of animosity this game is producing apparently.


Lauren Holmes hit a three to start the second quarter but it was WKU who would get crazy with it. Ivy Brown hit two and Sidnee Bopp hit another Steph Curry three to steal the lead for WKU. North Texas was taking everything inside and so Western decided that the deep stuff was the best stuff.

Late in the second, North Texas was starting to waver a bit. WKU’s press, like La Tech’s the day before, was starting to bother the Mean Green and careless passes were tossed. Lauren Holmes managed a ridiculous deep three herself to keep NT in it. That was at the 3:29 mark. NT hadn’t scored since Mim’s (nice looking) jumper at the 6:16 mark.

Later when Trena Mims drew a foul she missed both. That’s notable because she was a perfect 9/9 against La Tech. We were expecting to see some fatigue and the first sign of tired legs was missed free throws and short layups.

After the half NT was outscored 10-4 by the four minute mark, had a banged up Brittany Smith — who was thrown into the stands — and couldn’t buy a bucket on the offensive end. Whatever drives were managed ended with hopeful shots at the rim. Tired legs, tough defense, thrown rhythm — whatever the cause, it was affecting NT.

WKU on the other end was unlocking their stars as both Browns got some inside buckets working 1v1.

Tashia Brown had 12 in the third quarter as NT layup attempts fell short time and again. That was partly due to the WKU press which forced NT’s talented guards to expend energy breaking it then try to get the cup.

NT was vulnerable to both Browns inside, as the two talented Hilltoppers who averaged a combined 39 points were showing how they managed that. An array of silky post moves and step-backs from them at 36 points at the 6 min mark of the 4th.

All that said North Texas was down just 7 after a run of three throw trips. WKU was playing better ball but was fouling way to often. Ivy Brown had four fouls and the refs originally gave her her fifth to the roaring satisfaction of the green crowd before correcting the call to Elgedaway. That ignited WKU’s crowd. Tashia Brown hit a jumper and the FT to push things to 10 again with four to play.

The NT crowd was standing on its feet, and the WKU crowd was also.

Buoyed by the beneficial call, WKU went on a run to seal the game. What was a 7 point lead with 5:00 left after two Terrell free throws became an 18 point lead with minute left.

In a span of 30 seconds WKU’s Whitney Creech faked a pass, then got a layup then hit a bucket, then stole the ball, then got a pull up jumper. That sealed it if it wasn’t already sealed. NT was done — they gave everything they had in the three games this tournament and that was just not enough to beat a team the calibre of Western.

The Western crowd gets to enjoy both championship games on Saturday. This was the group that had loud complaints about the venue and yet flourished.

Afterward Jalie Mitchell spoke about how proud she was of the team despite the loss. “I thought we showed up. We gave up some buckets that we didn’t want game plan-wise but I’m proud.”

“They hit those threes. Could have lived without those.”

“In the second half we turned it on, fought and pushed it. We didn’t finish at the rim like I thought we needed to. Had some great opportunities. Didn’t finish at the rate we needed to.  Not our night.”

Lauren Holmes called this season “a good start.”

Mitchell concurred.

“We did (make progress). Our first winning season in a while. That’s big-time. That just means we are moving in the right direction. Every year we have won more and more games — this is my third year and so to accomplish this every single player in that locker room were players we brought in and recruited and believed in. I’m proud — disappointed in the loss — but proud and things are only going up from here.”

“We are going to grow so much”

And so ends a great run for the North Texas women. The first winning season in about a decade was capped by an excellent tournament run. Few believed they had much of chance in the tournament, but Lauren Holmes said all that mattered was that they did:

“[The season] was definitely a success. We didn’t get the outcome we wanted. We proved to ourselves that we could get this far. Overall it is a good start for us.”

The entire team returns including current freshman Lauren Holmes. If this tournament is any indication, there will be more in store next time.

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Basketball

Mean Green Women Take On WKU Tonight

You are forgiven if you do not know too much about the NT women’s basketball team. For the least decade or more, the women’s team has been poor. Jalie Mitchell has changed all that and this team here, while flawed — 11th seed! — is fun and has the pieces.

The guard play is good and tough. Brittany Smith and Trena Mims can handle the rock and get to the cup and finish even with tougher, taller women bumping them. Grace Goodheart is a shooter but can put the ball on the floor and pull up for midrange buckets.

Micayla Buckner, ‘the rock’ as Jalie Mitchell called her, can bang inside and finish around the rim. She also did as good a job on Tech’s Alexus Malone as possible, making things tough for the Lady Techster.

Of course, Terriell Bradley can light it up from anywhere.

Western is super tough. These two met in Denton and saw WKU win by 14 going away. Ivy Brown is averaging 16 a game and had a great one in the blowout against UTSA.

NT is the miracle team of the tournament right now, and a good portion of that has been the support of the crowd. The wisdom of choosing the Ford Center as the tournament location was questioned by most Eastern teams, but the value in having both the men’s and women’s tournaments in the same venue has been tremendous.

Tonight, the script flips, and the women get to play in prime time after having to endure 11am tips the last couple of days. North Texas has benefitted from playing at the more ideal 2pm slot, but will have to adjust to the late start but will likely find that ideal.

Mitchell expected her girls might have had tired legs in the Tech game, but they came out with energy and passion. Having one of the largest crowds they have seen all season might give them more of the same.

We will not kid you and pretend to know much about WKU’s squad, but know this: They are good, they have good players, and are very deserving of the second seed they occupy at the moment.

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Survive and Advance, North Texas Women Win Again

North Texas is the CUSA Tourney Cinderella squad and pulled off an upset of 3rd ranked La Tech on International Women’s Day. Combined with yesterday’s upset of 6th ranked Charlotte and you have a North Texas Women’s team primed for a showdown against WKU in prime time.

The turnout for the men against Tech last night was significant and the hope — from everyone around the program — is that the same group will turn up for that one.

In the mean time, everyone is feeling good. Jalie Mitchell:

“I’m so proud of our girls. We were resilient”

Nearly the entire green section behind the bench paused to hug and congratulate Jalie Mitchell for her success after the game. NT came out and looked hungrier than the Lady Techsters and that made all the difference. Tech got back into things with a viscous press that caused a handful of turnovers and sloppy play but NT entered the fourth quarter up 7 points and simply outlasted their way to victory.

It helped that Trena Mims was perfect from the line — 9/9 — and Teriell Bradley hit clutch jumpers to break the tough 2-3 zone late.

Tech got back into things with a full court press that collapsed into a 2-3 zone. NT had more than enough trouble with the press-breaking and then looked uncomfortable executing against the zone. Grace Goodheart had some wide open looks that didn’t drop, and everyone got a little sloppy with the ball.

Tech’s Alexus Malone was incredible, putting up 27 points and 6 assists. She forced NT’s Deja Terrell and Micayla Malone to foul out with her bullying inside. When NT would double, she found Reauna Cleaver for a slicing bucket. Tech fought back throughout the third and early fourth quarters to trim the lead to only 4 points. NT managed to free throw their way out and survive the comeback.

Observations:

Craig Robertson was in the court-side seats. Various media sideline reporter types came up to him for interviews. During one request, he had to interrupt a few times to cheer on NT — including Bradley’s breakaway bucket in the first half.

Everyone is over the venue. It has been well-established that the Star is quirky but interesting and does not distract from the overall experience much beyond what any non-traditional venue does. The confines of the court are the same and to the players, nothing has really changed.

In talking to assorted fans — locals, NT alumni, visitors, band members — the consensus is that the venue is cool, everyone is enjoying it, and it kind of feels like a festival or convention. It is much better than having multiple venues for the men’s and women’s tournaments.

The refs had to do a little chastising — they said something to Lauren Holmes but she denied anything. NT was on a roll, hitting everything. Everyone had scored that had played at that point. Tech tried something like a press which forced NT to run more.

NT came out ready to play — I think it had to do with playing a tough game just yesterday. Had the mindset already. Took Tech a quarter to adjust

Mims has such a pretty shot.

Bradley has had some clutch buckets out here late despite not shooting well overall.

Malone from Tech is a handful. She can shoot the three but was killing NT inside. When they double, she finds Cleaver for a cut and a bucket. The press was really throwing NT, who had the offense cooking. It made everyone uncomfortable. It forces NT to scramble, then the 2/3 matchup zone requires patience that is throwing NT off.

It was not quite a Roaring Comeback from Tech, but it is a testament to how good they are.

NT played a tough Charlotte yesterday and that helped them get their mind right. Tech took a while to adjust but they are showing why they were 3rd in the league.

Bradley sized up Malone 2:28, went baseline and got the benefit of the ref’s call. It isn’t a basket but it keeps the ball in NT’s hands and allows everyone time to think. That was how NT survived. The offense looks creaky at times and the time-wasting was helpful.

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First Impressions of the Star, NT Women Upset Charlotte

Throughout the League Tournament we will be posting regularly about the experience. They will sometimes be straight recaps and other times — like this one — an assortment of impressions along with game thoughts.

The issue we have here is that you can see into the infiinte void of the arena. Sure, the goals are ten feet away from the floor just like at home, but the issue here is that the sense of unfamiliarity permeates the entire city.

The Rally House near the Dr. Pepper Arena had no Mean Green gear in stock at the beginiing of the day but had asomeone amassing the assorted inventory from the Metroplex to deliver to Frisco before game time.

Which game time? Well presumably the men’s time but there was no telling.

North Texas Women struggled but they are the 11th seed and so that is hard to attribute to the arena.

The assembled media were settling into their gigs well, writing up stories and tweeting. Entering the Media Entrence I had to direct a wayward family that was looking for the main public entrance. It is all new, and after a few years — presumably this is going to be the norm? — everyone will know what to do.

The NT band was chanting what was presumably funny and clever things during a break but no one could make it out this side of the court, given the echo. They sounded 100 yards away instead of the 100 feet.

NT found a shot and was able to make some buckets late.


Terriell Bradley is a baller


Early in the 4th quarter there was a problem with the clock that took some time to fix. Norm the 49er Mascot and Scrappy battle danced for a bit. Cheerleaders did flips. Everyone kind of killed time for a bit. The game was tense for a while there but the stoppage kind of killed momentum.

Terriell Bradley had an open wing three that hit the backboard before any rim and only the side of the rim at that. She was facing the empty corner. Was that the break or the arena?

A fun new thing? Lauren Holmes left the court and exited the baseline side and ran along the back of the scorer’s table to get to the bench. Non-elevated courts are the way to do things.


In the final stretch both teams missed wide open looks from deep and there was one air-balled free threw from Charlotte’s Dara Pearson.

The thing about shooting is that it is all muscle memory and later when Laia Raventos and Grace Goodheart had hands in their face, they each cashed threes easily. That’s the way it goes.

North Texas had free throw woes, but that is still more normal than anything. Brittany Smith and Terriell Bradley missed the front ends of their visits to the line. When Charlotte’s desperation three went in — there is again an example of the benefits of doing and not thinking too much — the game got closer. NT found themselves up only three with 10.5 left and on defense.

Amaya Ransom took a fading three from the left corner, was bumped enough that I would call a foul, and the ball fell short of the rim. There was a battle for the rebound and North Texas won that and the game.

Laia Raventos said dejectedly to the ref “That was a foul.”

North Texas celebrated, Charlotte walked off.

The morning session was done.


The first impressions of the place have been a mix of shock and early thoughts based on twitter pictures. The reality is that the Star complex is nice and brand-spaking-new and the Ford Center is a decent place to have a league tournament. When the well-supported programs are playing and everything is intense, you can forget the strangeness of it and get into the game. That is, of course, the idea.

By the final day every player will have adjusted to the strange sight lines and the oddness of the entire set up and we will all be back to watching the games.

Let us basketball.

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North Texas Basketball Is Fun

Basketball had a hell of a night. Both the Men’s and Women’s programs put on a show on the road.

Grant McGasland’s crew of scrappy Mean Greeners went to Birmingham and out-hustled, out-played, and out-basketball-ed the preseason conference favorite Blazers.

UAB has not been the team everyone predicted but they still remain good and most league observers expected UAB to win this one handily. North Texas has given little reason to scare anyone, with some clear holes in the attack and some poor awareness leading to some close home losses. Still, NT is scrappy and should not be overlooked. Perhaps UAB was doing the latter and forgetting that NT has some really good players who hustle.

McGasland tweeted that he wanted Roosevelt Smart, shooter extraordinaire, to hustle more and early in the game he did just that, diving on the floor for a loose ball that led to a DJ Draper three — one of his four in the game. NT has just the right about of shooting and the right amount of athleticism to give any team in this league a game if everyone is hustling. Right now North Texas is hitting something akin to a stride winning four straight.

This stretch of games is the toughest on the schedule with UAB, MTSU, WKU, and Marshall all lined up. Having dispatched with UAB on the road NT will face clear conference leader Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro this Saturday at five in the afternoon.

To say that it is a huge game is an understatement. NT can make a statement that would resonate beyond just the little pond that is CUSA. Middle is not only one of the better teams in the league, but in the nation. A win would signal that NT is maybe not back but not the sad sack program that it was the last five years.

Even with a loss, NT has a real shot to finish the league in the top-four, giving the program a fighting chance to make some noise in the league tournament in Frisco March 7-10. Without the first round bye, the team faces a daunting task if it wants to advance. A bye could make all the difference. Right now, Marshall and NT are in a tie for the fourth spot and the Herd have a much easier slate ahead of them before the 2/17 matchup in Denton.

Hooping in Florida

Meanwhile, Jalie Mitchell is still rebuilding the women’s program. After something like a promising start the NT squad lost five straight including a terrible loss in San Antonio to the very bad Roadrunners in which the Mean Green missed damned near everything.

This road trip began with the complete opposite of a performance. Mitchell and company took that loss hard but returned with a great week of practice and a show in Miami. Terriell Bradley went off for 32 points on nine three pointers. That’s a program record. FIU was complete dominated on their home (ugly) floor 92-46. NT held FIU to a terrible 14/53 shooting (28.3%) while they shot 28/70 (54.3%).

After the loss to UTSA, NT was teetering on the edge of not making the league tournament but now is tied for 9th with FU and ODU. The win over FIU helps any potential tie-breaking scenario down the road. NT was handled easily by WKU and UAB — two of the league’s better teams — but played Rice close — the third ranked team. The rest of the league is not separated by much and a league tournament is always about hitting stride at the right time. If Terriell Bradley can shoot like she did the other night, anything is possible.

There are good times happening at the Super Pit

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Basketball

Basketball Updates

In case you have been spending time golfing thinking very hard about the future of your family and business, meeting with the very best people and so on, let me catch you up on some things.

North Texas men’s basketball officially parted ways with Tony Benford. What is news is not that it happened — it was a long time coming — but in the manner it did. Athletic Director Wren Baker has been sending email to the Mean Green Club members before releasing the press notes. This is a nice touch. What is more is that he is not simply rehashing the points made in the release. If anything, it is a sign of a difference in tone.

Things are mighty different than they were under Ricky V, Sushi Baron.

March 5th:

We will move expeditiously to find new leadership for your men’s basketball program.

March 13th:

I am writing today to inform you that we have found the next head coach for your Mean Green men’s basketball program. It is with great excitement that I announce that Coach Grant McCasland will be the 18th Head Men’s Basketball Coach in our history. As you are a loyal supporter of the program, I wanted to share this information with you first.

Women’s Basketball

While the men’s program was sorting itself out, the women’s team fell in the conference quarterfinals to WKU 78-51. Jalie Mitchell ends her second season at 12-19 (8-10) after finishing her first 11-19 (5-13). She is two wins ahead of Shanice Stephen’s two year pace (20 wins), even with Mike Peterson (23) after two years. Karen Aston famously has the best record of the last decade at NT, when she finished 15-16 before leaving (with Jalie Mitchell) to Texas.

The conference records have improved, but NT is still a bit off the conference pace but Mitchell looks like she has a handle on things.

Grant McCasland

Monday North Texas hired former Arkansas State Head Coach Grant McCasland. He had coached only one year in Jonesboro, taking the Red Wolves to a 20-win season. His buyout of a half-million will be paid and Wren said this:

“If you want a sitting [NCAA] Division I coach, there is going to be a buyout,” Baker said. “We are prepared to do what we need to do there. The biggest cost is not having a winning program.”

That is good stuff. The key factors here:

  • He is from Irving, has family here including a father needing care
  • He is close with Wren Baker
  • He has won, been part of programs that have won. Career record of 219-56
  • He is getting something like 600K base salary to coach here.

Arkansas State has become the nation’s internship program, losing three football coaches from 2011-2013 after just one year. I am chuckling out loud. For what it is worth, McCasland’s old boss tried to save face.

Do you feel something aking to hope now? I cannot tell you what is required to produce winning basketball programs, but Tony Benford did not have it. Grant McCasland seems like he does.

The talent on the roster — Woolridge, Lawson, maybe Combs? — is decent, but I have no idea if McCasland sees it the same way. For what it is worth, we should mention that the 20-win Red Wolves were dropped in OT by the ULM Warhawks in the Sun Belt tournament. The other guy we were eyeing — UTA’s Scott Cross was bounced by Texas State. This is a funny game.

Edit: This previously had a typo where I referred to UTA’s coach as Ray Harper instead of Scott Cross. My bad. Thanks for the catch!