DENTON, Tex. — Last season, Grant McCasland helped turn the Arkansas State Red Wolves into a legitimate threat in the Sun Belt Conference.
This season, he will look to work his magic with the North Texas Mean Green, who hired McCasland in the off-season.
North Texas has a pair of sophomore guards to build around for the future, in Ryan Woolridge and A.J. Lawson. Both were key pieces a season ago, and will be the focal points of the offense for the Mean Green in 2017-18.
On Friday, the McCasland era in Denton, Texas officially began, as North Texas welcomed the Eureka Red Devils to town in non-conference action. The Red Devils stayed close in the early parts of the first half, but North Texas proved to be too much in the end.
In the second half alone, the Mean Green put up 67 points to put considerable distance between themselves and the Red Devils. North Texas opened up the 2017-18 season with a 122-65 win over Eureka.
Woolridge recorded 19 points, seven rebounds, five steals, and four assists in the win. Lawson added eight points and seven rebounds of his own.
Roosevelt Smart scored a team-high 21 points, on 8-of-10 shooting, as the Mean Green had six players score in double-figures.
For the Red Devils, Shea Feehan scored a game-high 24 points in a losing effort.
Smart opened the scoring with a three point jumper on the Mean Green’s second attempt of the game. That sparked an early 8-0 run for the home side. Lawson capped the run with a jumper of his own.
The Red Devils hung around, and didn’t let the Mean Green run away with things early on. While they would never lead on the afternoon, the Red Devils found themselves tied on three occasions early on in the first half. A jumper from Alex Wiegand knotted the game up at 19-all with under 12 minutes to play in the half.
That was the last time the game would be tied.
North Texas rattled off a 16-0 run to separate themselves from the Red Devils, and they took a 55-34 lead into the break.
In the second half, it was more of the same. North Texas built on their halftime lead, and continued to stretch it right to the final buzzer. A jumper from Smart with 7:51 to play in the game pushed the Mean Green above the century mark, at 101-52.
When the final buzzer sounded, North Texas held down home court with a 122-65 victory over Eureka, successfully opening the Grant McCasland era with a win.
North Texas (1-0) will look to keep their winning ways going on Sunday afternoon when they head on the road for the first time for a date with the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
– T. Bennett