DENTON (AP) — North Texas got physical, and now the young Mean Green get to play for a championship on their home court.
Ryan Woolridge had two steals that he turned into breakaway layups during North Texas’ decisive run in the second half, and the Mean Green beat San Francisco 69-55 on Wednesday night to force a deciding Game 3 in the College Basketball Invitational final.
“We got back to being ourselves and the more aggressive team,” said freshman Zachary Simmons, who had 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Mean Green (19-18) forced 16 turnovers, while committing only three of their own, and had 15-5 advantage in second-chance points bolstered by 16 offensive rebounds. They outscored San Francisco 14-0 on fast-break points — and 42-18 in the paint.
Jorden Duffy had 15 points and nine rebounds for North Texas, which didn’t play any seniors. Roosevelt Smart had 13 points and Tope Arikawe finished with 10. Woolridge had seven points with five assists.
“We were a more physical team, we got communication in transition,” Smart said.
Souley Boum had 16 points for San Francisco (22-16), while Frankie Ferrari had 10.
The Mean Green missed 12 straight shots from the field over a span of nearly 7 minutes before Arikawe’s tiebreaking layup with 29 seconds left made it 33-31 at halftime. They also scored the first 10 points in the second half. Woolridge’s second steal and layup to cap the bigger 16-3 spurt made it 49-34 with just over 12 minutes left.
“They were just really tough and physical on their own floor,” USF coach Kyle Smith said. “They were lucky to be honest because they didn’t shoot the ball great. But they really made up with it with their effort on the offensive glass.”
UNT shot 40 percent overall (27 of 68).
Game 3 is Friday night, back in the Super Pit on the North Texas campus. San Francisco won 72-62 in the opener of the best-of-three series Monday night.
“This will be good for us, good for both teams,” Smith said. “Someone gets to come out of here with a championship.”
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