Ahmed Scores Season-High 15 As Mean Green Men Top MVSU
North Texas Fights Through Lethargic Performance To Advance Season Record To 4-1
Muhammed Ahmed had a season-high 15 points and nine rebounds Wednesday night (photo by Rick Yeatts)
DENTON - On a night when a ragged North Texas offense failed to find any consistency, it was junior forward Muhammed Ahmed who provided the answer to the Mean Green's struggles.
Ahmed, the transfer from the Bronx, New York, scored a season-high 15 points and added a game-high nine rebounds Wednesday to lift North Texas through a pre-Thanksgiving malaise to a 67-52 win over Mississippi Valley State at the Super Pit.
But Ahmed's performance was one of the few bright spots for a North Texas team that shot just 46.4 percent from the floor, 50 percent from the free-throw line, and committed 20 turnovers.
"I'm really disappointed in our effort today," North Texas coach Tony Benford said. "That's on me. The guys have got to be ready to play and we weren't ready to play. I'm disappointed in the effort and the focus. We've got to bring great energy every night."
After falling behind 9-3, the Mean Green snatched five steals while T.J. Taylor, making his first start of the year, scored seven points to send North Texas on top at 12-11. The advantage hovered at seven as MVSU stayed in the game with five three-point field goals, but a 17-2 Mean Green run over the final seven minutes of the first half and a defense that held MVSU to 29-percent shooting combined to balloon the North Texas lead to 14 at 41-27.
But North Texas emerged from halftime as if from a deep freeze. The Mean Green scored just eight points in the first ten minutes of the half on a chilly three-of-10 field-goal shooting, a 37.5-percent free-throw performance, and seven turnovers, keeping North Texas from blowing the game open.
The Mean Green, however, enjoyed a massive edge inside, out-rebounding the Delta Devils 49-35 and out-scoring MVSU in the paint, 34-18, led by Ahmed and 10 points from Collin Voss, and that was sufficient to keep North Texas from ever being seriously challenged. North Texas' double-digit lead gradually inflated to 17 points with three minutes to play.
The Mean Green defense allowed a season-low 52 points.
North Texas is 4-1 for the first time since 2010-11 and for the ninth time since 1980.
Senior guard T.J. Taylor made his first start of the season on Wednesday. It was the second start of his career.
North Texas scored 41 points in the first half - their second-highest halftime total of the season - without the benefit of a double-figure scorer. Eight players scored for the Mean Green in the first 20 minutes.
This was the first meeting between North Texas and Mississippi Valley State.
Mean Green assistant coach Scott Monarch was matched up Wednesday against his alma mater. Monarch played at MVSU, graduating in 1990. He is believed to have been the first white player in this history of MVSU and the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
The Mean Green embark on an arduous three-game road swing. After traveling on Thanksgiving day to Arkansas, on Friday North Texas will take on the 25th-ranked Razorbacks. That's followed by a Dec. 3 game at Oklahoma State and a Dec. 14 date at Stephen F. Austin. The Mean Green's next home game is Dec. 17 against Langston.