North Texas Overcomes Hot-Shooting Owls With Late Rally
Smart Pours In 28 Points To Lead UNT
DENTON - Neither North Texas nor Rice were in the running to win any beauty contests in the first half of Saturday evening's game at The Super Pit.
In the second half, North Texas was able to overcome a blistering shooting performance from the Owls with a pretty good shooting clip of its own while going 14-for-18 from the foul line in the half to pull out a 74-70 win over Rice.
"The biggest change at half was we just wanted to get paint touches before we shot," North Texas head coach Grant McCasland said. "I thought we shot some quick ones in the first half from [three-point range]. We got some good looks but once we shot one a little quick we got tight, and we needed to make more effort to move the ball. I thought everyone going to the rim really opened it up and gave us some opportunities to score."
The Mean Green (13-10, 6-4 Conference USA) were led by Roosevelt Smart, who had a game-high 28 points despite not having his best night from the field. Smart was 7-for-19 from the field and just 3-for-13 from beyond the arc but went 11-for-14 from the charity stripe. Rice hit nine straight field goals at one point in the second half and shot 14-for-18 from the field in the second half while outrebounding the Mean Green.
At the half, Smart had a game-high 12 points, but no other North Texas player had more than four points.
That changed in the second half.
Junior guard Allante Holston scored a season-high 13 points, including nine in the second half, and sophomore walk-on DJ Draper scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half to round out the Mean Green's double-figures scorers. Holston also led North Texas with seven rebounds.
But it was a dunk by Holston during North Texas' run midway through the second half that gave the Mean Green the spark it needed and got McCasland's team playing more aggressive basketball. The thunderous dunk brought the crowd to its feet and pulled North Texas to within 57-51. Less than four minutes later, the game was tied at 60.
"I thought the dunk he had in that segment - we were just moving the ball around and not being aggressive - he went to the bucket and gave us some aggressiveness and he was also huge on the glass," McCasland said. "He led us in rebounds and he was pivotal in our success and got more aggressive, and then our whole team did."
The win marked the Mean Green's third straight at The Super Pit, but now North Texas heads back out on the road for arguably its toughest trip of the season with games at UAB and Middle Tennessee before home games against Western Kentucky and Marshall.
"This team is excited about challenges," McCasland said. "The way we played down the stretch proves that. The tougher the environment gets, the better we play. We have to find a way to stretch some leads by getting some stops and in the second half and we didn't do that, but we're showing signs, and this team doesn't have any quit in them."
North Texas (13-10, 6-4 C-USA) returns to action on Feb. 8, when the Mean Green travel to UAB for a 7 p.m. tip.
- Roosevelt Smart's three 3-pointers on the evening moved him into second place on the all-time single-season list in program history. He now has 82 made 3-pointers on the year and trails Calvin Watson by eight makes with eight games to play in the regular season.
- Smart's 28 points gave him 60 this season against the Owls after he scored 42 on Jan. 13 at Rice - the first 40-point performance for a North Texas player since 1999.
- DJ Draper scored 12 points, which is the second-most points in a game in his career. Draper's top two scoring efforts have now come against Rice. He scored a career-high 23 points at Rice on Jan. 13.
- Ryan Woolridge's six assists gives him 135 on the season -- two behind Calvin Williams for seventh all-time on the single-season program list.
- The win clinches a winning record at home this season for the Mean Green.