Smart's Big Night Leads Mean Green To CBI Title
Mean Green Clinch Tournament In Super Pit
DENTON -- What seemed like a coronation early in the second half of Friday night's decisive game of the best-of-three CBI championship series quickly turned into a dogfight.
But every time San Francisco appeared to be spoiling the raucous Mean Green crowd's party, North Texas answered the bell.
UNT made eight consecutive field goals down the stretch and had a nice run at the foul line to beat the Dons 88-77 and clinch the CBI tournament championship, capped with an emphatic spike of the ball by tournament MVP Roosevelt Smart as the final buzzer sounded, in front of a season-high crowd of 6,291 at the Super Pit.
Five minutes into the second half, the Mean Green had a comfortable 14-point lead, but four minutes later, the Dons (22-17) had cut the lead to a single point.
"They're a really good team and have really good shooters and a really good point guard in [Frankie] Ferrari," Smart said. "When they made that run, we just had to dig in deep and show our grit and get stops. When we got stops, we ran in transition and got easy buckets."
The way the Mean Green (20-18) closed the game was a stark difference from several games earlier in the year when leads evaporated and were never regained in close losses.
"We learned from the regular season, losing so many close games that came down to free throws," Smart said. "We rebounded the ball down the stretch and got the W."
On Friday, UNT shot 32-for-43 from the line and 25-for-33 in the second half, led by Smart's 14-for-14 performance from the line.
Smart finished the night with a game-high 25 points, despite shooting just 4-for-12 from the field.
"I think, as a program, we relied upon Roosevelt all year long," UNT coach Grant McCasland said. "He's a gunner, at times. He's competitive and tough, though. For him to finish the game like he did, even though he wasn't scoring like we want him to [from the field], he was getting to the free throw line."
The Mean Green also got 14 points from Jorden Duffy and 12 apiece from Michael Miller and A.J. Lawson, who played a key role off the bench after losing his starting job to Duffy when UNT opened the CBI on the road at South Dakota.
Lawson scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half and was 6-for-8 from the foul line.
"It felt good," he said. "I've been not playing as much as usual, but I was there on the sideline cheering my team on. Even though I'm not playing, I'm still gonna be my team's biggest cheerleader and once I got my chance to come back on he floor, I knew I had to capitalize and help my team win."
A big reason for UNT's big halftime lead was the way it held the Dons' leading scorer, Ferrari, to four points on 1-for-8 shooting in the first half, but the deep threat went 5-for-9 from beyond the arc and scored 15 second-half points to lead the late charge UNT was able to hold off.
"I said it'd be tough to guard him," McCasland said. "You're not gonna be able to keep him from scoring over the course of a game. He's eventually going to get his."
A pivotal stretch in the game came with 7:42 remaining and North Texas clinging to a four-point lead. San Francisco had a shot at a fast break but was whistled for a foul on Smart, who stepped to the line and hit two shots to push the UNT lead to 58-52. On the ensuing trip down the floor, USF coach Kyle Smith was given a technical foul, sending Smart to the line again to push the Mean Green lead to 60-52.
The win puts the Mean Green in great position heading into next season, as they graduate just two players and no starters. They also enter next year with Smart, who set a new school record for points and 3-pointers in a season, and point guard Ryan Woolridge, who set a new school record for single-season assists.
Next season will also see what the Mean Green hope is a full season of Duffy at full strength after the junior guard averaged 17.8 points in his six starts this year -- all coming in the tournament -- after battling injuries throughout the season.
"This gives us momentum because we have experience in the postseason now and we have guys back who were injured this year and were sitting out," Smart said. "The ceiling's high for us. We're gonna enjoy this. Can't wait for next season."
- Ryan Woolridge's eight assists gives him 221 dimes on the season. He finishes the year as the Mean Green's all-time single-season assists leader. Woolridge also tied the CBI tournament record for assists with 45, which tied him with UTEP's Julyan Stone in 2009.
- Roosevelt Smart's 25 points gave him 742 for the season and put him past Kenneth Lyons' old mark of 728 for the program's all-time single-season high. Smart's 3-pointer with 5:04 left first half tied the record, and it was also the team's 300th 3-pointer of the season. With 1:34 left in the first half, a Smart free throw broke the mark.
- Smart also moved into third all-time in the CBI tournament for points scored with 138, as he averaged 23 points per game in the six-game run.
- Smart also extended his program record for made 3-pointers and ended the season with 133 after his 3-for-6 performance from downtown.
- Zachary Simmons moved into second all-time in the CBI, finishing the tournament with 65 rebounds after his five on Friday. That total was buoyed by his 22-rebound performance in UNT's Game 1 loss.
- The Mean Green shot 74 percent from the foul line and finished the year 13-0 when shooting better than 70 percent from the line.
- UNT made six 3-pointers on the night to extend its single-season program record to 302 made 3-pointers on the season.
- The Mean Green's 88 points gives them 2,828 for the year, which extends a new school record set this season.
- The attendance of 6,291 beat the season's previous 4,196 (set Monday in Game 2 of the CBI) by more than 2,000 people.