MOBILE, Ala. – The University of South Alabama men’s basketball team will try to shake off their recent loss to Middle Tennessee that snapped a four-game win streak when they welcome North Texas to the Mitchell Center Saturday night.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. The game can be seen online by subscribers of Jaguars All-Access, heard on 105.5 FM WNSP and WNSP.com, and followed via live stats on USAJaguars.com or Twitter: @SouthAlaMBK.
Prior to the game the program will recognize its four seniors: Trey Anderson (Carrollton, Texas), Javier Carter (Dallas, Texas), Freddie Goldstein (Milwaukee, Wis.) and Wendell Wright (Long Beach, Calif.).
The Jaguars (15-10, 12-5 Sun Belt) have experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows the past two games, winning 88-64 vs. Louisiana at Lafayette—USA’s biggest win of the season—while losing 85-50 to Middle Tennessee.
“It’s so important to find a way to put the last game behind us from a mental standpoint and understand we have to go back to work again tomorrow,” interim USA head coach Jeff Price said. “That’s the thing about basketball, you can’t sit on wins or losses very long. We have to have a very short memory. We have to understand it was one of those nights and get back to being us tomorrow.”
South Alabama is looking to end a four-game losing streak to North Texas. The Mean Green have also won five of the last six meetings, including a 66-56 win in Denton earlier this season.
The Jags shot a season-low 21.2 percent in the first half on Jan. 12 and were unable to rally from a 21-point deficit in the second half.
“Outside of the fact that we obviously need to play better, we need to do a better job of defending them,” Price said. “I can’t speak a lot about the past that we’ve had; this year we just got behind early and I didn’t think we did a good job on the defensive end, which was really the case last night as well. If you catch them on a night when their talent is all on, they’re really, really good.”
Potential NBA draft pick Tony Mitchell gets all the accolades, but it is Jordan Williams who leads NT in scoring at 14.1 points per game. Williams has scored in double-digits 10 straight games—hitting the 20-point mark five times—including putting up 31 points vs. ULL on Jan. 31.
Williams had 13 points vs. South Alabama in Denton.
“He is a tremendous shooter,” Price said. “You cannot leave him open. In his last three games he’s averaging over 20 points per game. He and Roger Franklin have taken up a big offensive load for them down the stretch. That gives you a sign of the talent level on their team when Tony Mitchell is their third-leading scorer. Jordan Williams is a guy we have to know where he is at all the time. He’s going to get his shots up; we have to make sure we contest them.”
Mitchell ranks fourth in the league in rebounding (8.2 rpg) and is first in blocks (2.7 bpg). He shot just 5-for-14 from the floor vs. the Jags earlier this season, but recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards while blocking four shots.
In last season’s 78-73 overtime win in Mobile, Mitchell put up 34 points and 16 rebounds.
“He’s a big-time player,” Price said. “We learned last year that he can step up at any time and have huge nights. Regardless of him being their third-leading scorer, he’s at the top of everybody’s radar, even though they’re talented and they can spread it out a bit.”
Mitchell put up those numbers last year without facing USA junior Augustine Rubit (Houston, Texas) for a majority of the game. Rubit left the contest midway through the first half with an injury, but had six rebounds in just 11 minutes of work.
Rubit is coming off his fourth double-double in his last five games with 13 points and 12 rebounds Thursday against Middle Tennessee. He ranks second in the Sun Belt in scoring (19.4 ppg) and first in rebounding (10.7 rpg).
“I don’t know if they’ll be matched up a lot; that could be the case, but over there they both got into foul trouble,” Price noted. “They’re two really good players—probably the two best players in the conference. Aug knows this isn’t about him vs. Tony Mitchell, which is somewhat how it has played out, but this is about our team against their team.”