Jan. 4, 2014
Brandon Walton led North Texas with 14 points in a 76-72 win over UC Riverside (photo by Rick Yeatts)
Box Score: NT 76 UCR 72
North Texas Season Stats
DENTON, TX - North Texas got shot blocks from Alzee Williams and T.J. Taylor on consecutive possessions to halt a UC-Riverside rally and send the Mean Green to a season-high fourth-straight win, 76-72, Saturday afternoon at the Super Pit.
Riverside erased a 14-point Mean Green lead and drew even at 58-58 with seven minutes to play. But Williams's block and subsequent jumper, followed by a block by Taylor and two free throws from Colin Voss, put North Texas (9-5) back in control, and the Mean Green then held on against determined Highlander charges in the final minutes.
In the Mean Green's final game before opening Conference USA play, the Highlanders (5-9) drew within one with 8.9 seconds to play, but Maurice Aniefiok scored on an inbounds pass from Chris Jones with five seconds left to secure the win.
"We didn't do a good job closing the game out," North Texas coach Tony Benford said. "We got kind of flat and didn't defend the three-point line. We played well for 20 minutes, not great for 40 minutes like we did at A&M."
Brandon Walton sparked the Mean Green offense with four three-pointers, including a trio of threes to break open a tigh game late in the first half and propel North Texas to a 14-point lead early in the second half. Walton finished with a team-high 14 points.
"Brandon has been coming in and getting extra shots up, and we're going to need him to that in conference play," Benford said, referring to the zone-heavy defenses of Conference USA opponents like Southern Miss, which comes to town in five days.
Both teams played strong defense in the first half, limiting the scoring opportunities and allowing no player for either team scored in double figures in the opening 20 minutes. Riverside, kept afloat with a 10-3 advantage at the free-throw line, stayed within three points of the Mean Green most of the half, but, with 3:36 to play, North Texas began to get exploit the Highlanders' defense with drives into the lane and quick passes resulting in open layups. Keith Coleman scored on a perfect underhand pass from Walton for a 26-21 lead, Walton splashed a three-pointer, and Chris Jones scored on an assist from Jordan Williams for a 33-27 halftime lead.
Aniefiok was the Mean Green's only other player in double figures with 13 points, coming on the heels of a strong 16-point outing in the victory at A&M on New Year's Eve.
Junior Armani Flannigan made his fourth start of the season and his second in a row.
North Texas did not get to the free-throw line until the 6:15 mark of the first half, when Chris Jones made a pair of shots. Riverside had attempted 11 free throws by that time. Despite the disparity, both teams had been whistled for seven fouls.
The Mean Green had their highest assist total of the season at Texas A&M with 16, and continued that pace against Riverside with eight first-half assists, led by Chris Jones with three. The Mean Green finished with 13 assists, and Jones wound up with four.
Colin Voss had his fourth double-digit rebounding game with 10 boards to go with eight points, just two points shy of his third double-double of the season.
Walton's 14-point performance was his second-best scoring game of the season. He scored 16 points against Incarnate Word.
North Texas plays its first Conference USA game on Thursday, Jan. 9, against Southern Miss at the Super Pit. Gametime is 7 p.m.