Potent Zone Defense Leading NT Hoops Into UAB Showdown
Mean Green Finds Defensive Stride After Getting Healthy
After holding Texas A&M to the lowest scoring total in Reed Arena history, Tony Benford talks about the start of his new zone look that is still driving opponents crazy.
North Texas (10-8, 1-3 C-USA) vs. UAB (12-5, 1-2 C-USA)
DENTON, Texas - Folks close to Tony Benford know that he is all about defense, and over the last month the second-year North Texas coach has found the formula that has opponents struggling to score. That formula will be on display this weekend as the Mean Green takes on UAB on Thursday and Middle Tennessee on Saturday at the Super Pit.
A suffocating zone defense was always a part of the Mean Green playbook, but in mid-December the return of two North Texas big men to full strength, Colin Voss and Kelvin Gaines, allowed Benford to ramp up the zone looks.
Benford and Co. executed the zone to perfection for the first time at Texas A&M. NT held the Aggies to 30.0 percent shooting and just 41 points - the lowest total in Reed Arena history. The effort prompted the Aggies beat writers to inquire if this "new" zone defense was around to stay for the Mean Green?
"This is the most zone we've played all year, to be honest with you. But we're going to play some more, I'll guarantee you that," said Benford.
And that's exactly what the Mean Green has done.
North Texas has held its last eight opponents to 66.6 points per game and 40.4 percent shooting, a vast improvement over NT's 78.1 points and 42.8 percent allowed over the year's opening 10 contests.
Perhaps no area has seen bigger improvement than NT's perimeter defense. The last eight games have seen North Texas hold its opponents to 29.1 percent from 3-point, whereas the first 10 opponents shot 35.0 percent from deep.