North Texas Daily

Mean Green continue hottest start in program history

Mean Green continue hottest start in program history

Mean Green continue hottest start in program history
January 21
23:05 2019

The North Texas Mean Green men’s basketball team (17-2, 5-1 Conference USA) has had one of its best starts in recent memory and are currently undefeated at home with only lost one game in conference play. 

Their last loss came at the hands of Texas-San Antonio on Jan. 12. The Roadrunners held off North Texas’ comeback attempt as they were able to hand the Mean Green their second loss, beating them 76-74.

The Mean Green have already made statistical improvements from the 2017-18 season. North Texas shot 45 percent from the field, 35 percent from the 3-point line and 66 percent shooting free throws in last season.

That is not the case this season so far,  they have improved to shooting 47 percent from the field. North Texas has made strides in free throws as they are collectively shooting 69 percent from the free throw line and shooting 37 percent from three.

Earlier this season, head coach Grant McCasland let the team have a Monday practice off, only to find them all in the gym working out during regular practice hours.

There [are] a lot of hard-working players on our team and a key to that is their passion for the game and wanting to be great,” McCasland said. “I’ve coached teams that have won national titles, but they didn’t like each other. Here they really like each other and, in order to be great, they’ve really decided to work together and be good.”

Redshirt freshman guard Umoja Gibson is having a comeback season after sustaining a seasonending leg injury during the second game in the fall season against Nebraska. The Waco, TX native is currently averaging 12 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists per game on 43 percent shooting.

“My goal is to come back and finish what I started by winning the Conference USA championship,” Gibson said, “I’m trying to get to the [NCAA] tournament and do it all for the city of Denton.”

Gibson is averaging 26 minutes per game and has been shooting 85 percent from the free throw line as well as 40 percent from the 3-point line. The guard’s role has been fickle this season– he was the primary offensive scorer at the beginning of the year. Gibson’s role is slowly becoming that of a facilitator rather than just a scorer as the season progresses.

“We have a lot of guys that can score here, so marrying your ability to score and make plays for others, that’s something [Gibson] keeps getting better and better at,” McCasland said. “His assist to turnover ratio in conference is good and keeps improving with a good learner’s mentality.”

Redshirt junior DJ Draper’s role has been as an efficient defender who makes timely shots coming off the bench. He’s been a very vocal leader, a player that can come on the floor and help verbally facilitate plays and call out defenses.

“I consider myself as a glue guy who can come in off the bench and communicate with the starters and hit open shots,” Draper said.

Last season, Draper was second on the team in made three-pointers in conference play (36) and was nominated for C-USA Sixth Man of the Year.

The Mean Green have high aspirations for this season as they’re currently only third in a tight C-USA. They are ranked first in scoring margin with 13.1 points.

North Texas will look to keep this successful start to the season on a roll as they remain in the midst of conference play. The Mean Green will also aim to keep their undefeated record at home. North Texas has an upcoming three-game homestand against Rice, Alabama-Birmingham and Middle Tennessee.

“Our number one goal is to win a Conference USA championship and in order to win those you have to win your home games,” McCasland said. “You can be good on the road but if you want to win conference championships, we understand that we have to win our home games.”

The Mean Green will host Alabama-Birmingham (12-7, 4-2 C-USA) on Thursday, Jan. 24.

Featured Image: The Mean Green bench celebrates as they take the lead over the Golden Eagles at the game against Southern Mississippi on Jan. 5. Image by Trevon McWilliams. 

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Matt Suarez

Matt Suarez

Sports Editor

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