Harris's Steal, Layup Lift North Texas Past First-Place UAB
Mean Green Rally From 12-Point Deficit, Get Clutch Buckets Late In 67-64 Win
DENTON - North Texas struggled from the field through much of Thursday night's game against league-leader UAB, but the Mean Green out-battled the taller Blazers on the boards to create 23 second-chance points and got a pair of clutch plays in the final minute for a 67-64 win.
With the game tied at 62-62 and UAB working for a go-ahead score, the Mean Green's DeAndre Harris stole the ball and fought his way past a pair of scrambling Blazer defenders for what proved to be the game-winning bucket. Then with 12 seconds to play, T.J. Taylor added a game-securing score on an inbounds play from Maurice Aniefiok for a four-point lead.
"DeAndre made a heck of a defensive play, and a great play to get to the bucket," North Texas coach Tony Benford said. "Our guys played extremely hard and really gutted it out. We got down early but made shots when we needed them. We've been working on late-game situations, and it really paid off tonight."
It was the second victory of the season for North Texas (10-13 overall, 4-7 in CUSA) over a first-place team in Conference USA, and snapped a three-game UAB winning streak.
The Mean Green zone was ineffective early, allowing UAB (13-12, 9-3) to score 12 of its first 18 points in the paint, and that trend combined with nine first-half North Texas turnovers to send the Blazers a 12-point advantage, 27-15. But North Texas stitched together several stops on defense to hold UAB scoreless over the final 2:58 of the half, while the NT offense awoke. The Mean Green finished the half on a 9-0 run, and three-straight made free throws, a three-point field goal by Taylor, and a steal by Aniefiok and subsequent layup by Armani Flannigan with one second to play wiped away all trace of the deficit and sent the Mean Green to intermission with a 32-31 lead.
Offense was tough to come by in the second half, as the teams combined to shoot 37 percent from the floor. But Collin Voss, Jordan Williams and Jeremy Combs led an assault on the offensive boards for a decisive 23-10 edge in second-chance points. North Texas also made 10 of 13 second-half free throws.
Williams and Voss finished as the Mean Green's top scorers with 14 each, and Williams added 10 rebounds for his eighth-career double-double. Harris finished with four points and added seven rebounds.
Senior Jordan Williams had two steals Thursday, giving him 108 for his career and tying him with Tony Worrell (1984-88) for seventh-place all-time at North Texas. Williams needs one steal to catch sixth-place Charles Washington (1996-99).
North Texas is now 10-4 when holding opponents under 70 points.
North Texas hosts long-time league rival Middle Tennessee Saturday night at 7 p.m. at the Super Pit.