DENTON, Texas — 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.”
San Francisco: The Dons, who won back-to-back NCAA titles in 1955 and 1956 and were NIT champs in 1949, are looking to become the first NCAA Division I team to win three different postseason tournaments. This is their third CBI appearance.
North Texas: With their 19th win in coach Grant McCasland’s first season, the Mean Green have already won 11 games more than last season and assured that they will not have a losing season. Their last .500 record was 16-16 in 2013-14, and their last winning season was an 18-14 record in 2011-12.
San Francisco led only once, at 13-11 after Remu Raitanen’s second consecutive 3 nearly 7 minutes into the game. UNT took a timeout and got a 3 from Smart. After Jimbo Lull’s jumper made it 31-all with 3 1/2 minutes left, the Dons had a turnover, missed three shots and missed the front end of a 1-and-1 attempt with 7 seconds left.
This is the ninth time in the 11 CBI tournaments that the final series has needed all three games to determine the champion. The deciding game comes the night before the start of the NCAA Final Four in San Antonio, about a 5-hour drive south on I-35 from the North Texas campus.
More AP college basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org ; https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 and https://www.podcastone.com/ap-sports-special-events