North Texas Daily

Mean Green completes biggest comeback in school history, beats MTSU

Mean Green completes biggest comeback in school history, beats MTSU

February 14
22:26 2015

Scott Sidway / Staff Writer

The Mean Green men’s basketball team showed heart on Valentine’s Day, erasing a 21 point deficit to defeat Middle Tennessee State University 57-56 at the Super Pit. That matches the largest comeback in school history.

“I’m really proud of these guys. The way they played in the second half, they really stayed together,” head coach Tony Benford said. “They didn’t give up, and that says a lot about these guys.”

North Texas (11-13, 5-7) scored the first basket of the game off of a driving layup from junior guard Maurice Aniefiok, but that was the last time the Mean Green would lead until the final 16 seconds of the game.

After North Texas’ first basket, the Blue Raiders (13-13-, 6-7) responded with a 12-2 run to open up an early lead. Middle Tennessee maintained a double-digit lead throughout a majority of the first half due to a lopsided disparity in shooting for both teams. The Blue Raiders took a 37-18 lead into halftime after shooting 64 percent from the floor compared to 27 percent for the Mean Green.

“For whatever reason in the first half, we weren’t keeping them in front and making them make tough shots,” senior forward Colin Voss said. “They were just going right around us.”

The second half began exactly like the first, with North Texas scoring on a layup from Aniefiok and MTSU following it up with four straight points. But a couple of three-pointers from senior guard Jordan Williams and Aniefiok followed by a three-point play by Williams gave North Texas life. The Mean Green was able to trim a 21 point lead down to 12 points with 11:24 to go in the game.

Williams made a spinning jumper from the baseline on North Texas’ next possession, moving him ahead of North Texas hall of famer John Savage for ninth place on the school’s all-time scoring list. He continued his 12-point second half with a trip to the line on the next possession, making one of two free throws to cut the MTSU lead to single digits at 48-39.

The offense continued to make clutch shots down the stretch and get to the free throw line, outshooting the Blue Raiders from the line by twelve attempts. MTSU also went cold in the waning minutes, missing 10 of their last 12 shots and missing a handful of free throws to allow the Mean Green back in the game.

Sophomore guard DeAndre Harris was a key piece in getting the Mean Green to the line, scoring six of his nine total points from the charity stripe.

“I felt like if I get to the basket, I’m going to get to the line,” Harris said. “We could stop the game and shoot free throws too, so we’re stopping the time and scoring at the same time. So that was my whole point in doing that.”

Down three with 48 seconds left, Harris went to the free throw line and sank two free throws to trim the lead to one. MTSU missed a layup with 11 seconds left on the clock, and Voss was fouled while grabbing the rebound. Voss went to the free throw line and nailed both of his free throws, giving North Texas its first lead since the opening bucket of the game.

The Blue Raiders went to leading scorer Reggie Upshaw with the game on the line, and he delivered a nifty post move with six seconds remaining to put MTSU back on top by one. Harris took the inbound pass and raced all the way down the court in just four seconds and was fouled with two seconds left. Harris was clutch again and knocked down both free throws to give the Mean Green a 57-56 lead.

“He’s the fastest dude in the league with the ball,” Benford said. “He got it and just blasted up the floor. He did a great job and showed a lot of toughness making those free throws when we needed to.”

The Mean Green defended MTSU’s Hail Mary attempt at a full court pass to ice the game.

The win gives the Mean Green its first multi-game winning streak since mid-December when it won two in a row against Langston University and Creighton University.

North Texas heads to the Sunshine State on Thursday for a two-game road trip starting with Florida Atlantic University. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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