North Texas Daily

Smart’s big night not enough as men’s basketball falls to Middle Tennessee

Smart’s big night not enough as men’s basketball falls to Middle Tennessee

February 10
20:41 2018

Middle Tennessee State University and North Texas crossed paths in Murfreesboro, Tennessee Saturday night. And as most know, their paths leading up to this game, and this season, could not have been more contrasting.

Middle Tennessee went 31-5 last season and defeated the University of Minnesota in the first round of the NCAA Tournament after winning Conference USA with ease. North Texas, meanwhile, came in dead last in the conference and made a coaching change.

This season, the Blue Raiders once again find themselves atop Conference USA, but this year the Mean Green are in a new role. One where they believe they should win every game they play in as they are now 14-11 and 7-5 in conference.

That belief poured out of North Texas against Middle Tennessee (20-5, 12-1), but it was not enough as they fell 79-73. Head coach Grant McCasland had no consolation for his team afterwards.

“The end result is just not acceptable,” McCasland said. “I thought we played well enough to win, unfortunately we’re just missing a few pieces that we need more competitiveness out of.”

It has also been different roads for the two stars of this game in senior forward Nick King on Middle Tennessee and sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart on North Texas. Both of whom seemed to be unstoppable to the opposing defense.

King played at the University of Memphis, the University of Alabama and now is at Middle Tennessee. He was recently named a finalist for the Karl Malone award for best power forward in the country.

In the win, King scored 32 points on 11-of-21 shooting.

Smart, though, went to a junior college last season and is finally getting his shot at Division I basketball with North Texas. Smart went 7-of-12 on 3-pointers Saturday, breaking the school record for most 3-point makes in a single season, now at 91.

In total, Smart scored 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting.

“We competed hard,” Smart said. “We played hard. We had a toughness about us tonight, but down the stretch we had key turnovers and we missed free throws so that played a big part in the loss.”

The matchup of the two primary guards also turned heads. For North Texas, sophomore Ryan Woolridge put up 11 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists while senior Giddy Potts pitched in 15 point, 11 of which came in the first half, for Middle Tennessee.

“He’s been doing this all season,” Smart said of Woolridge. “He does a good job of finishing and looking for people, like me tonight.”

Three stark differences in team statistics showed up in turnovers, rebounding and free throws.

The Mean Green had 18 turnovers turning into 19 Blue Raider points, while only forcing four turnovers on the other end.

North Texas outrebounded Middle Tennessee 38-25, but, McCasland’s team shot only 7-of-16 from the free throw line while the Blue Raiders shot 14-of-17.

“In a couple of positions we had some moments where we really panicked and that’s part of growing up and learning,” McCasland said. “We definitely had a chance to win and that’s where it is extremely disappointing.”

Middle Tennessee remains at the top of Conference USA and the Mean Green remain fifth. If the seeds stayed the same it could potentially set up a semi-final between these two teams in the conference tournament.

Even if their paths do not cross again, Saturday night gave Mean Green fans hope that North Texas and Middle Tennessee are closer than they have been in a long time.

“We can win this conference,” Smart said. “We just have to compete for 40 minutes because they are the team to beat.”

Next up: The Mean Green return to Denton to match up with Western Kentucky University on Thursday at 8 p.m.

Featured image: Sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart shots in a game against Indiana State University on December 6. 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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