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  1. Just a few hours after being introduced as North Texas’ new men’s basketball head coach, Grant McCasland sat down with members of the media one-on-one. Sporting his new Mean Green colors and a smile on his face, he discussed the future of the program he is inheriting. On interest in the North Texas job. “Growing up in this area and in this state, North Texas was one university that had basketball success,” McCasland said. “I played tournaments at the Super Pit and watched several recruiting events at the Super Pit. I watched college games there. My knowledge was more of a fan. But you look at jobs down the road that fit something you would be interested in, I thought it would be a cool opportunity to coach basketball [at North Texas]. I never thought it would be a reality.” On his Texas roots. “This is home,” McCasland said. “This area is. There’s not a lot of opportunities to be a head coach and be this close to family. All of my immediate family is within an hour from here. That’s awesome. It’s unreal. My whole family was here today. That’s as good as it gets. That’s the way we want our program to be modeled after. People that love each other unconditionally but hold each other accountable and tell the truth. That atmosphere is what’s vital to being a successful basketball program. On the similarities between Arkansas State and North Texas “I think North Texas had more recent success in the NCAA tournament,” McCasland said. “It’s very similar in some regards. Instilling a winning mindset in the current players is where I see the most similarities between the two.” On freshman guards Ryan Woolridge and A.J. Lawson. “The number one priority will be our players and investing in them,” McCasland said. “I want them to know they are loved and will be served, but will be held to a higher standard. We have a couple of freshman who have had extended playing time. You talk about two dynamic guards, that’s them. I’ve watched them both in summer basketball, anytime you have success in college basketball you have to have great guards. The guard play of those two are exciting.” On his message to frustrated fans. “You need to buy your tickets,” McCasland said. “You need to make trips early to the Super Pit so you can understand what you want to be a part of. We were lucky to take a team [Arkansas State] that averaged about 1,800 people over the last two seasons and average 4,000 a game last year. I would tell them there’s a history and we’ve been able to improve a team quickly. Come out and watch us quick. Guys will be fun to watch. They’ll play hard and play for each other. I know people appreciate basketball around here.” View Full Article
  2. UNT regents plan to hire search firm to find new chancellor View Full Article
  3. After winning a marathon in round one against the University of Alabama at Birmingham, North Texas women’s basketball was tasked with playing 24 hours later against No. 1 seed Western Kentucky University. But after falling short in the quarterfinals last season, the Lady Hilltoppers (25-6. 16-2) looked determined to not let history repeat itself, as Western Kentucky sent the Mean Green (12-19, 8-10) home with a 78-51 victory. “We gave it everything we had yesterday,” head coach Jalie Mitchell said. “And today I think that we [played well]. Western Kentucky is just better. They have two really great guards and we didn’t control them today.” Those two great guards are Kendall Noble and Tashia Brown, who combined for 43 points and 16 boards in the Lady Hilltoppers resounding victory. North Texas was out-rebounded 44-28 overall and 19-7 on the offensive glass, constantly giving Western Kentucky second chance opportunities. “We put them on the free throw line too many times and our rebounding was definitely an issue,” senior guard Candice Adams said. “ View Full Article
  4. You know that weird feeling in your stomach when you know something isn’t right? Everything might seem okay Turns out, that was only the beginning of one of the worst campaigns in program history. Plagued by injuries, turnovers and poor offensive execution, the Mean Green finished the year 8-22 and said goodbye to head coach Tony Benford last weekend. I really do feel bad for Benford. He is an outstanding man. He took the time to get to know me this season, and I always enjoyed our chats in his office before and after interviews. Sadly, kindness does not win basketball games. Over the course of his five-year tenure, that was a recurring theme. Benford could never win the games that mattered. His teams, for whatever reason, always seemed to stumble, even when it looked like they were set up for success. Like this year. When this season began, Benford knew he had to win to save his job. The theme of the preseason press conference was “win now.” With a majority of his roster back, Benford thought he would have all the necessary puzzle pieces to string it together. He knew he had a preseason all-conference selection and a McDonald’s All-American ready to suit up for him. Then injuries came in and flipped the table, sending those same puzzle pieces flying. And while the injuries are unfortunate, Benford has no one to blame but himself. He put himself in this situation. In five years, none of his teams finished above the .500 mark. The Mean Green won only one conference tournament game under Benford and were a dismal 62-95 from 2012-2017. Over the years, Benford was given plenty of chances to make things work. But after five years with no real signs of progression on the court, the writing was on the wall. View Full Article
  5. For the fourth time this season, 40 minutes was not enough for the Mean Green women’s basketball team. But for the first time, even a five-minute overtime period left the game tied. Finally, after 50 minutes of carnage and bedlam in a game where neither team led by more than eight, North Texas (12-18, 8-10) remained standing in a must-win game against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Mean Green were able to outlast UAB 65-62 in double-overtime in the first round of the Conference USA tournament to keep their season alive. North Texas advanced to play No. 1 seed Western Kentucky University Thursday in the quarterfinals. “We don’t give up, we put up a fight no matter what the scoreboard says,” senior forward Terra Ellison said. “Being 4-0 in overtimes this year shows that we put up a good fight and we’re going to win [in overtime].” Ellison posted a career-high 21 points while also bringing down 10 rebounds against the Blazers (15-15, 8-10). Sophomore guard Terriell Bradley scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while also sinking the final two free throws of the game to put the Mean Green up three with six seconds left in the second overtime. Both teams went cold to close out the game in the fourth quarter, combining to score just six points in the final 6:50 of play. View Full Article
  6. Being the last competitors to hit the mat for their team, two UNT wrestlers know how to deal with pressure. In nearly every meet this season, the rest of the team looks to them in crunch time when everything is on the line. But that is no problem for sophomores Ikaika Neal and Joseph Arce. As the final weight classes to compete at every tournament, both Arce and Neal have been charged with bringing up the back and sealing the team’s fate with their performances. This happened recently with the Southwest Conference Championship when it came down to Neal and Arce to secure not only wins for themselves, but consecutive conference championships for UNT as well. The duo came through. When it was all said and done, Neal finished in second place in the 235-pound weight class while Arce took home the gold in the 285-pound division. “Pressure is how diamonds are made,” head coach Andre Metzger said. “I call these two my magical Chevys that take care of business and continue to push themselves even harder.” Currently ranked No. 18 and No. 10 in the nation respectively, Neal and Arce are gearing up for the national competition March 9-11 in Allen, Texas. And although the tandem are the leaders on the team, their journey to get to the pinnacle of college wrestling could not be more different. Wrestling since the age of four, Neal was hand-picked on the side of the road in Portland, Oregon where his first coach convinced his grandmother he needed to wrestle. “I was a really big kid and when [my coach] saw me he said ‘he looks like someone who can become a champion, you should get him into wrestling,’” Neal said. “I was four so I had no choice.” A simple decision made by his grandmother and a keen observation from his first coach sparked into a passion for Neal, who stuck with the sport until his family moved. Before his freshman year of high school, Neal’s family relocated to Mesquite, Texas, where they did not have a wrestling team in the district. As a result, Neal went four years without wrestling. Upon graduating high school, Neal came to UNT where he quickly joined the wrestling club — and got back to what he loves most. Arce, on the other hand, took a much different route to college wrestling than his fellow heavyweight. At the Optimist Gym in Denton, head coach Andre Metzger (middle) demonstrates different moves to the wrestling team. The team is heading to nationals this week, March 9, 2017 with 12 competitors (5 women, 7 men). Katie Jenkins View Full Article
  7. Growth and toughness. Those two words embody what North Texas head tennis coach Sujay Lama wants to see from his team as their season winds down. In what’s been a challenging 2017 campaign — facing seven Power Five conference teams in 12 matches with players fighting through injuries — this young group has benefited from squaring off with some of the better teams in college tennis. The youngest squad in Conference USA, seven of North Texas’ eight players are either freshmen or sophomores. In five matches decided by one point, the Mean Green are only 1-4, with three of the losses coming against Power Five schools. And despite their 5-7 record, North Texas is determined to not let close losses keep them down. Even though they have had a slew of tough competition to start the season, players on the team are embracing the challenge of facing quality opponents. “When you lose the matches like that you learn something new,” sophomore Tamuna Kutubidze said. “I think it’s much better to lose those kind of matches than win easy matches.” Lama concurs, and said the bigger picture is more important than their record. “I hate losing,” Lama said. “Nobody likes to lose, but that’s why you have the big picture. What’s the big picture? It’s what happens at the end out there, giving ourselves a chance to win the conference championship, play in the postseason. That’s what it’s all about.” Unlike some other sports, all 14 tennis teams in C-USA are granted entry into the conference tournament regardless of their dual season record. Season records only determine seeding, with the top two seeds receiving a first-round bye. In order to put his team in the best position to win a conference title in April, Lama said he must challenge his players with a formidable slate of matches in the months prior to the conference tournament. That way once they’re in the tournament, they’ll be ready for the best C-USA has to offer. But things won’t get much easier in conference play. C-USA is home to five top-125 athletes and plenty of other quality competition. Fortunately for the Mean Green, one of the conference’s best players resides on their own roster. In her second year at North Texas as the team’s No. 1 player, No. 82 nationally ranked Maria Kononova has been the main beneficiary of this intense schedule. Kononova has already faced five players who currently hold a ranking in the top-125 spots in the nation and has more in the weeks ahead. She has claimed victories over two top-80 opponents so far this season. View Full Article
  8. With her second regular season under her belt, head coach Jalie Mitchell led the North Texas women’s basketball team to the No. 8 seed in the Conference USA tournament with an 8-10 conference record. From 2008-2015, the women’s program only won eight conference games one other time (2013). Despite her program showing substantial progress in her sophomore season, Mitchell refuses to settle for simply making the tournament. “We have to win our first game,” Mitchell said. “It would be something we haven’t done, and making that round of eight shows that you belong up there.” The Mean Green will face the No. 9 seed, University of Alabama, in Birmingham in the first round. While this is a team they have beaten before, they have one advantage that separates them from every other team in the tournament. “UAB is technically the home team because we are in Birmingham,” Mitchell said. “I think they’re a tough team, so we have to come to play.” With the same conference record and one past game decided in overtime, which North Texas won, these two teams appear somewhat even on paper. The only possible edge could be the fact that the tournament is being played on the Blazers’ home court where they are 9-6, a sharp contrast to their 5-8 road record. With UAB playing well at home, North Texas will turn to its three seniors for guidance. Guards Kelsey Criner and Candice Adams and forward Terra Ellison were relied on heavily in both tournament games last season. Criner averaged 14.5 points in the two games, while Adams and Ellison averaged 14 and 12.5, respectively. And the seniors continue to be key cogs for the team. “We have experience of the atmosphere and what it’s going to be like,” Ellison said. “We just have to make sure we let the new players understand what it’s going to be like and how important and serious it is at the tournament.” Along with their experience, their scoring and hectic defense could cause problems that allow them to make a run. Their defense creates roughly 19 turnovers per game, which generates transition and three-point opportunities. Getting hot in a single-elimination tournament is not uncommon, and this team has the guard play to do so. When the Mean Green have been forced to face a set defense in halfcourt however, they have struggled and become stagnant, especially against zone. A possession from the wbball game against Marshall, their ability to attack a zone will determine how far they can go in the tournament. — Matthew Brune (@mattbrune25) March 7, 2017 “We can improve our communication on defense so that we’re all on the same page,” sophomore guard Tyara Warren said. “[Also] just knowing our offense because we’re going to get zoned.” Mitchell believes there’s a simple explanation to why opponents have gone to a zone. “Teams are going to that because we’re not hitting [from outside],” Mitchell said. “That is something we definitely need to fix.” View Full Article
  9. While he has a few potential replacements in mind, Baker is keeping his cards close to his chest. “There are a lot of names in mind but none I would share publicly,” Baker said. “Confidentiality is key. The candidates don’t want to be exposed. If you talk to one or two and that is out, people think you’re on your third or fourth candidate, that’s not a good situation for you. I’ve got names, and expect more to turn up.” Benford leaves the program after failing to qualify for the Conference USA tournament this season. The Mean Green posted an 8-22 overall record and just a 2-16 mark in conference. Despite where the program stands now, Baker thinks the job is an attractive one. Baker is unsure of when the new head coach will be announced, but he knows one thing – North Texas needs experience. “I think we need somebody that has demonstrated experience in Division I,” Baker said. “I have a preference of getting a sitting head coach. If we can hire a sitting Division I head coach who is successful, that would be awesome, but we won’t restrict ourselves to that.” “I get it,” Baker said. “We all want to win. But first of all, I would say it would not be accurate to paint this men’s basketball staff as a failure. We haven’t had hardly any off-the-court incidents with our kids. Don’t take that for granted. But at the end of the day, they haven’t won enough for the fans. We will go and find a coach that will make us highly competitive in this league.” View Full Article
  10. University of North Texas vice president and athletic director Wren Baker announced Sunday men’s basketball head coach Tony Benford has been relieved of his duties effective immediately. Benford was at the end of his five-year deal with the university. “After spending this season evaluating our men’s basketball program, we have determined that a change in leadership is necessary,” Baker said in a press release. “Tony and his staff have worked tirelessly for five seasons to help our student-athletes grow academically, socially and competitively. I am appreciative of those efforts. However, I believe we can compete for championships and, unfortunately, we have fallen short of those expectations.” View Full Article
  11. In what could be the final game on the North Texas sideline for head coach Tony Benford, the Mean Green (8-22, 2-16) had two critical turnovers down the stretch that allowed Marshall University to win 106-104. North Texas blew a one-point lead after a turnover on an inbounds pass gave Marshall (17-14, 10-8) forward Ryan Taylor the go-ahead layup with 6.9 seconds remaining in the game. After another turnover by North Texas allowed the Thundering Herd to extend the lead on a free throw with just four seconds to go in the final game of the season. With one final chance to send the game to overtime, freshman guard A.J. Lawson sprinted coast-to-coast but missed a layup at the final buzzer. Lawson led UNT in scoring with 26 points, fifteen of which came in the second half. Despite his strong performance, free throws were a struggle for as he went just 4-of-12 from the line. “He’s got to continue to work on those [free throws],” Benford said. “But he did a great job of playing hard and making plays for us. North Texas displayed one of its best shooting performances of the season in the loss and had its highest scoring output against a Division I team in the Tony Benford era. The Mean Green shot over 60 percent field and 44 percent from 3-point range. North Texas also managed to tie its season-high by scoring 53 points in the first half. View Full Article
  12. When junior forward Shane Temara enters a room, everyone seems to take notice – mainly because he wants them to. A photo shoot is going down in the press room in the bowels of the Super Pit. Temara becomes the center of attention as he pulls out his iPhone and begins to document everything via Snapchat. He sends the entire room into laughter with his wise-cracks and personality. He shows everything off for his Snapchat as a few of his teammates watch on. He puts everything on his story for all of his friends to see. Time for the professional photos now. After a few shots against the backdrop, Temara’s shirt is off. He’s got to flex for Instagram. “I think he wants to be a movie star,” head coach Tony Benford said jokingly. “I know how he is. He’s a very outgoing guy. Shane keeps everybody loose and our guys will tell you he’s the funniest guy on the team and fun to be around.” On the court, however, Temara becomes a different beast. It’s time to go to work when he steps on the hardwood. Playing basketball at this level is nothing short of a dream. After high school, Temara was not sure if he would ever be playing Division I basketball, so he is not going to squander his opportunity. He has to keep himself loose. “I try to have fun with it because if I start thinking too much, then the mistakes come,” Temara said. “It’s my office. I try to not worry about what other people are thinking.” View Full Article
  13. A new UNT track and field complex, costing almost $12 million, will break ground and start construction in April on Bonnie Brae and Willowwood streets and will be fully completed by spring 2018. “This project has been in the works for several years,” said Jared Mosley, associate vice president and chief operating officer. “There was always a thought at some point we were going to need a new facility because of the age conditions that the track is in.” Fouts Field UNT will soon say goodbye to its 65-year-old football stadium Fouts Field. Mosley said it is “outdated” and that the equipment for the new facility will be “enhanced.” Athletes and coaches are limited to what they can do over at Fouts. The track’s surface is starting to erode. Cracks are beginning to show up in the track and it has become a safety issue, said Mosley. Instead of renovating Fouts Field, which would be “extremely expensive,” it is “economical” to build a new facility. As of now, UNT is unable to hold its own track and field meets. Fouts is “strictly a practice facility,” Mosley said. With the new facility, this will change, bringing in revenue by selling tickets and getting the attention of student recruits by exposing them to North Texas sports. The new complex will be built on “very valuable” real estate located on on Bonnie Brae and Willowwood streets, south of the tennis complex, Mosley said. “I am really excited for [the new facility] and to be able to run on a new track next year,” said freshman track and field athlete Jaida Johnson. “I think it is always good for change.” By November 2017, the track, bleachers and press box will be completed. The operations building where the offices, locker rooms and restrooms are located will be completed by March 2018, said Mosley. View Full Article
  14. UNT breaks ground on $49M project View Full Article
  15. North Texas welcomed the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles into Denton on Senior Day to close out the 2017 home schedule. But what was supposed to be a day of happiness and celebration ended in agony for the Mean Green. North Texas (8-20, 2-14) was downed handily by the Golden Eagles (8-20, 2-14), solidifying the first losing record (7-11) at the Super Pit in 13 years. The Mean Green are now officially eliminated from Conference USA tournament contention. “I’m very disappointed in this afternoon,” head coach Tony Benford said. “I didn’t think we played well but Southern Miss had a lot to do with that. They did a great job executing against us. We missed some easy shots at the rim that I thought could have kept us in it.” Freshman guard A.J. Lawson, who has had to pick up the slack that was left by an injury-ridden season, had a double-double to lead the way. Lawson has stepped up in the extended absence of senior guards Keith Frazier, Deckie Johnson and junior forward Jeremy Combs. The freshman notched 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds and four assists. “Team first,” Lawson said. “I don’t come out here to just try and score everything.” Senior transfer Derail Green had one last chance to shine at home, and shine he did. Green finished with with 17 points and two rebounds, and no other Mean Green scorer broke into double-digits. “I just tried to come out with some energy and do whatever I can,” Green said. “We feel a little bit short. It was more the defensive errors that we made. The energy wasn’t that bad it was the attention to detail.” While Green and Lawson were strong, the Golden Eagles had a number of massive performances of their own. Senior guard Quinton Campbell led with 24 points and 13 rebounds on 10-of-13 shooting. Senior Michael Ramey was lights out from 3-point range early on his way to 19 points. Ramey was a big part of the 47-30 lead that Southern Miss held at halftime. View Full Article