North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball loses in round one of SBC Tournament

Men’s basketball loses in round one of SBC Tournament

March 18
21:34 2013

Ryne Gannoe / Senior Staff Writer

The Mean Green ended its season in a 74-55 first round Sun Belt Tournament loss to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette on March 8.

The Mean Green entered the tournament with confidence, but failed to capitalize on the return of sophomore guard Chris Jones and a big win over the No. 2 seed Arkansas State University to end the regular season.

After battling through a rocky, injury-filled season, things soured for the Mean Green (12-20, 7-13) one last time. Sophomore guard Alzee Williams did not play in the only tournament game because of a violation of team rules. Three days after the game UNT police issued WIlliams a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia.

The absence of Williams, a starter and one of UNT’s best defenders, was evident. Sophomore forward Tony Mitchell said the team struggled without him in the rotation.

“Alzee is our defensive stopper, he attacks the rack and he gets paint touches.” Mitchell said. “Al does a lot for us. I would say our flow was kind of out of sync without Alzee.”

The Ragin’ Cajuns (13-20, 8-12) have defeated UNT in five of the last six meetings, including all three games this season. ULL head coach Bob Marlin said having assistant coach Shawn Forrest, a former UNT assistant coach under Johnny Jones, gave ULL a bit of an edge.

“We made our shots and were aggressive,” Marlin said. “I thought we used our timeouts wisely, just like the other times we played them. I think we’re smart the way we scout and go about coaching within the game.”

The Mean Green also struggled by missing 12 of its 24 free throw attempts. UNT averaged 71 percent free throw shooting over the course of the season, but managed only 50 percent in the win-or-go-home game.

The season began with high expectations for the Mean Green. UNT was predicted to win its division, Tony Mitchell was thought to be a shoe-in for league MVP and he was a pre-season all-American. Instead, the team finished in fourth place in the West Division and Mitchell landed a spot on the second-team all-Sun Belt. Benford said the season was frustrating for the Mean Green and Mitchell because of the injuries.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” Benford said. “If we had the team that was set when we started the season, I think the year would have been different. You try and keep the chemistry going and some continuity going and it’s really difficult when you’ve got guys in and out of the line-up all year.”

With UNT’s chances of moving on dwindling in the fourth quarter, fans gave standing ovations to senior forwards Roger Franklin and Niko Stojiljkovic as they checked out of the game for the last time in a Mean Green uniform.

All that is left for the team is figuring out Mitchell’s status on declaring for the NBA draft. After the game, Mitchell said he was unsure about declaring for the draft and that he would make his decision after sitting down with his family and the coaching staff. Mitchell is projected to go between No. 24 and No. 27 in the first round if he enters.

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