North Texas Storms Back From 21 Down To Beat MTSU
Comeback Ties For Largest In School History
Jordan Williams led NT's comeback with a game-high 16 points (photo by Rick Yeatts)
DENTON - Three times this season, North Texas has knocked off a top-tier opponent at the Super Pit, and twice this season, the Mean Green has followed up those signature wins 48 hours later with a loss. For all the world, the Mean Green appeared ready to repeat that trend Saturday night.
Two days after an impressive victory over Conference-USA leader UAB, North Texas fell behind by 21 points to Middle Tennessee. But the Mean Green found its defense and shut down a formerly-red hot Blue Raider attack, located its offense behind Jordan Williams and Colin Voss to pull within eight with 3:32 to play, then finished off a sensational comeback by hitting nine-of-10 free throws down the stretch for a stunning 57-56 victory.
The win ties for the largest comeback in school history.
North Texas took its second lead of the night - and first since 2-0 in the opening minute - at 55-54 when Voss hit two free throws with 16.8 seconds to play. With 6.5 seconds left, Middle Tennessee made its first field goal in its last 11 attempts to go back on top, 56-55, but the Mean Green's DeAndre Harris immediately counter-attacked, driving the length of the court to the basket and drawing a foul with two seconds to play. He canned both free throws, and MTSU turned the ball over trying to get off a final shot.
"We can beat any team in the league when we come out and play. If we don't, we can lose to any team," said North Texas coach Tony Benford, whose team proved both points Saturday night.
Trailing 41-20 with 18:04 to play, North Texas (11-13 on the season, 5-7 in CUSA) finally found its intensity on both ends of the court. The Mean Green held MTSU to two of 14 shooting while chopping into the lead, closing to within eight at 48-40 with 6:38 to play. But North Texas missed on five-straight possessions, then twice hit on only one of two free-throw chances, stalling the rally.
The Mean Green defense, however, kept up the pressure. After shooting 64 percent from the floor in the first half, the Blue Raiders were held to 22.7 percent in the second half and could manage just 10 points in the final 12 minutes. The Mean Green rally, meanwhile, got back on track when Harris hit a three with 1:49 to play to cut the margin to 51-47.
"I told the guys, we had to keep scoring," Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said. "North Texas just made plays at the end."
Front and center in the rally were Williams, who had 11 points, three steals and two blocks in the second half; Voss, who scored eight points and three shot blocks after intermission; and Harris, who had nine points and two steals in the second half.
A very patient Middle Tennessee offense worked for its opportunities and cashed in on them throughout the first half, shooting 64 percent from the floor, including four of eight from three-point range and 18 points in the paint. North Texas, meanwhile, was as ineffective as the Blue Raiders were efficient. The Mean Green made just 26.9 percent of its field-goal attempts, including zero of five from beyond the arc, unable to stop the slow, steady increase of MTSU's lead, which was 19 at halftime.
North Texas has now come back from 21-point deficits three times in program history. The Mean Green rallied from 21 down to beat Denver in 200, and rallied on the road at New Mexico State in 2007.
The Mean Green's 18-point first half tied for the fewest points in the first half by North Texas since 2000.
It was a night of career records for senior Jordan Williams. He took over ninth place on the North Texas scoring list with 1,426 points, passing John Savage (1961-64) with 1,423. Williams is also now tied for fifth in career steals. Williams now has 112, surpassing Tony Worrell (1984-88) with 108 and Charles Washington (1996-99) with 109, and tying Isaac Hines (2004-06) with 112. Finally, Williams moved into a tie for seventh for career three-point field goals with Deon Hunter (1986-89) with 138 threes.
North Texas snapped a six-game losing streak to Middle Tennessee.
Tony Beford 39 career wins, tied ninth all-time at North Texas with hall-of-fame coach Terrance Myracle (1929-33).
North Texas embarks on its Florida road trip for a pair of games. First up is Florida Atlantic on Feb. 19 at 6 p.m., followed by Florida International on Feb. 21 at 5 p.m. The Mean Green return to the Super Pit on Feb. 26 against Charlotte.