Defense Propels North Texas Men to 62-55 Win, 3-0 Start
Mean Green Holds Delaware State 44.5 Points Below Its Season Average
Armani Flannigan's eight points in the final seven minutes clinched the win for North Texas (photo by Rick Yeatts)
DENTON - North Texas coach Tony Benford has been preaching defense since he hit town in 2012, and those sermons are beginning to attract some believers.
The Mean Green executed Benford's 1-2-2 zone defense effectively and relentlessly Wednesday night at the Super Pit, disrupting Delaware State and holding the Hornets 44.5 points below their season average in a 62-55 North Texas win to send the Mean Green to 3-0 for the first time since 2007-08. It was also Delaware State's first loss of the season.
"I'm really pleased with our defense," Benford said. "We've been running our zone, and our guys are getting more comfortable with it. We're not the biggest team, and we've got to keep people out of the paint."
North Texas got a game-high 17 points from Jordan Williams, who moved into 16th place in career scoring at North Texas, and 10 from Armani Flannigan, including eight pivotal points in the final seven minutes to clinch the victory.
Delaware State started the game from the three-point line, hitting its first three shots from beyond the arc. But the Mean Green's zone quickly extended and began to frustrate the Hornets, forcing them into longer and longer - and less effective - possessions, and allowing them to hit just two of their next 10 field goal attempts.
The North Texas offense put together an early 12-0 run before it, too, struggled, due in large part to eight first-half turnovers. Both teams finished the half shooting 37 percent from the floor and, appropriately, the game went to intermission tied at 27-27.
But the Mean Green found enough offense in the second half, getting clutch baskets at critical moments from Williams, T.J. Taylor, Todd Eaglin, and DeAndre Harris. The clinching points, however, came from Flannigan. He had a fast-break dunk on an assist from Williams, a put-back in the paint, and four free throws in the 90 seconds from a career 30-percent free-throw shooter to sustain the lead.
What They Said
"I'm really proud of the way Armani Flannigan stepped up. He's one of our most improved players. Last year he struggled at the line, but he's more confident"
--Tony Benford on senior Armani Flannigan's performance Wednesday night
"We have great length, and we talke about deflections all the time. We want to get 35 to 40 deflections a game, and when you can do that you have a chance to win games."
--Benford on his defense disrupting Delaware State
"They get tougher every night. We're going to be really challenged Sunday night."
--Benford on Sunday's opponent, Iona
Wednesday's win boosts head coach Tony Benford's winning percentage to 46.2 percent (31-36), fourth best at North Texas since World War II and surpassing Dan Spika, coach from 1965 to 1970 during North Texas' days in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Jordan Williams scored 17 points Wednesday and moved into 16th place on the North Texas career scoring list. Williams, now with 1,095 career points, moved past Joe Manning (1978-79) and the great Joe Hamilton (1969-70).
Williams also hit two three-point field goals to move within six of 10th place on the North Texas career list. Williams has 106, and is closing on Tom Etchison (1993-95) with 112 career threes.
After hitting just four three-point field goals in the first two games combined, North Texas had six threes against Delaware State.
This was the first-ever meeting between North Texas and Delaware State, and only the second game in Mean Green history against a team from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The first MEAC meeting was in 1976-77, when North Texas beat North Carolina A&T.
The Mean Green enter a tough stretch of their non-conference schedule, starting Sunday, Nov. 23, against Iona at 5 p.m. at the Super Pit. The Gaels have the most wins and league titles in MAAC Conference history, have made 10 trips to the NCAA tournament, and are currently No. 57 in the nation in the RPI rankings.