NEW ORLEANS (3/16/07) The Mean Green gave Memphis a scare, but in the end one, of the most memorable basketball seasons in North Texas history came to an end in a 73-58 loss to the Tigers in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
The No. 15 Mean Green (23-11) tested the No. 2 Tigers (31-3) early, but couldn’t counter a 14-2 Memphis run in the closing minutes of the first half. North Texas led by as much as six points in the opening frame before Memphis’ rally.
“I think Memphis did an excellent job of getting stops and knocking down a few shots to end the half, but that’s what they’ve done all year,” said head coach Johnny Jones. “I am just really proud of the way our guys came out and gave it everything they had today.”
North Texas played in just its second NCAA Tournament, and its first since 1988 when the Mean Green fell in the first round to No. 2 North Carolina, 83-65.
The Mean Green earned a trip to the Big Dance with it first Sun Belt Conference title last week in Lafayette, La.
North Texas got on the board first on the strength of a Quincy Williams lay-up off a no-look pass from Ben Bell. The bucket got the Mean Green off to a 5-1 run, which jumped out to 10-5 after a 30-foot three-pointer from Calvin Watson.
Watson, who hit two from downtown against the Tigers, finishes his career as North Texas’ all-time leader in three pointers in a career (208) and a season (90 in 2006-07). He also wraps us his Mean Green career as the 10th leading scorer in school history with 1,253 points.
“If you could cut us open and see how big our hearts are, that is how we played today,” said Watson. “I am just really proud of everyone on this team.”
Memphis took its first lead of the game, 23-22, on an Andre Allen three-pointer with 8:16 remaining in the first half, and surged ahead by five on the strength of a Jeremy Hunt trey with just over two minutes in the half.
The Mean Green went into the break down nine points to Memphis, which is ranked fifth in the country by both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
Keith Wooden tied with Memphis’ Chris Douglas-Roberts with a game-high 16 points. Wooden, a junior, also had three rebounds.
Despite spraining his ankle in the second half, Quincy Williams was only a point and a rebound shy of a double-double. Also a junior, Williams piled up three blocks to give him 38 on the year tied for the sixth most in a North Texas season.
The year will be one to remember for Mean Green fans, who saw their team not only return to the Big Dance for the first time in 19 years, but also set the school record for wins at 23 and pick up the program’s first Sun Belt title.