North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball soars past Eureka College in McCasland’s debut

Men’s basketball soars past Eureka College in McCasland’s debut

November 11
01:08 2017

With 18:17 left in the second half, sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge was backpedaling on defense to halt a fast break. That’s when a Eureka College guard lofted a cross court pass – Woolridge’s eyes lit up.

He sprung off the hardwood and into the air, tipping the ball loose and diving on it as it went out of bounds, but failing to gain possession. Those in attendance clapped peacefully at the hustle play.

On the ensuing inbounds, freshman guard Umoji Gibson sprinted to knock the ball away as it again went out of bounds right and fell to his coaches’ feet. The crowd clapped again, but head coach Grant McCasland was not satisfied.

He scooped up the ball, threw it back to the ref and turned to the crowd yelling, “Come on! Let’s go, let’s go.”

The McCasland era has arrived for both the players and the fans.

“Our guys are playing hard and they’re cheering, I just wanted to let them know they can stand up and do it too,” McCasland said. “We want them to have a good time when they come to the Pit, so it was just encouraging them.”

The Mean Green’s intensity emulated their coach for the entirety of the night as North Texas defeated Eureka College 122-65, scoring the third most points in school history while shooting 57.7 percent.

“We just came out aggressive,” Woolridge said. “We wanted to start the season off with a bang. We came out aggressive shooting, passing, swinging it, sharing the ball and that’s what happened.”

North Texas (1-0) had six players in double digits and all but two players had over three points in their win over Eureka (0-1).

The Mean Green were led by sophomore Roosevelt Smart who had 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and 3-of-4 from three. Smart also had four assists and a team high plus/minus ratio as the team was plus-41 in his 31 minutes on the court.

“It’s just playing hard,” Smart said. “Everyday in practice we put an emphasis on laying hard, especially on the defensive end. Because, once we get stops that opens up our offense even more.”

Freshman Umoja Gibson had 19 points and went 4-of-9 from 3-point range and Woolridge finished with 19 as well on 9-of-13 shooting along with tying for the team-high in rebounds with 7. The sophomore point guard also had five steals.

“I was very comfortable,” Woolridge said. “Just initiating the offense, getting everything set up. The flow of things was really smooth so I was real comfortable.”

Senior Shane Temar, who is back as a returning starter this year, had a productive season-opener, scoring 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting with four offensive rebounds.

“The way he rebounded really helped us,” McCasland said. “He got some put-backs and some offensive rebounds that allowed him to get baskets. We’ve been hard on Shane, but he wants to win and his energy on the offensive glass helped us.”

There were several occasions where players laid out for a loose ball to force a jump-ball, but that was nothing new to the Mean Green. Their hustle forced Eureka into 25 turnovers, which they converted into 32 points.

It also showed in the rebounding totals, where North Texas outrebounded Eureka 48-23.

“It definitely [comes second nature for us now],” Smart said. “We still make mistakes but we try to look over those and keep playing.”

The scoreboard was lit up throughout the game as North Texas scored over 1.4 points per possession and averaged just 12 seconds per possession. In a game they never trailed, McCasland enjoyed everything about his first game as the coach of the Mean Green.

“The Super Pit is great, first of all,” McCasland said. “The energy was tremendous, so [it was] a fun atmosphere and [fun] way to start all the way around.”

Next up: North Texas travels to Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers at 7 p.m. Monday.

Featured Image: Mean Green Basketball Guard Ryan Woolridge (0) drives past junior Hank Thomas (20) of Eureka College. Madison Gore

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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