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A defensive run keeps CBI title dreams alive for men’s basketball

A defensive run keeps CBI title dreams alive for men’s basketball

, Wednesday, March, 28, 2018, Super Pit in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

A defensive run keeps CBI title dreams alive for men’s basketball
March 28
23:30 2018

Sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart stood near mid court, confidently waving his hands up and down, further encouraging the raucous crowd at the Super Pit Wednesday night.

He then put up his right pointer finger to signal “one”. One more win.

That’s what this season will come down to after the Mean Green (19-18) evened the three-game series at one game a piece with a convincing 69-55 win over San Francisco (22-16).

“Our ball screen coverage was more physical, and they didn’t get second attempts,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “We minimized their transition baskets and we were able to get some off of their turnovers. Our defense was definitely more aggressive, and that was the difference.”

While the recorded 4,196 in attendance were riled up by the dunks and playmaking, North Texas’ defense stole the show with their activity and aggressive mindset.

“They’re such a good three point shooting team, and the ball screen is a big way they score, and the other is back door cuts,” McCasland said. “Today we didn’t give up back door cuts, [and] we did a better job guarding their actions.”

The Mean Green shot a lowly 2-of-18 from the 3-point line in the win but brought down 16 offensive rebounds to San Francisco’s four, which was part of the reason North Texas attempted 18 more shots than the Dons.

Freshman forward Zachary Simmons and junior forward Tope Arikawe were forces inside the paint, combining for 22 points and 13 rebounds. As a team, the Mean Green outscored San Francisco 42-18 in the paint.

“Last game we got away from what we were doing [on the glass],” Simmons said. “The games before we were out-rebounding every team we played, so we just got back to being the more aggressive team.”

After a somewhat back and forth opening half, North Texas’ defense locked in and ensured a win in the opening 11 minutes as they went on a 20-7 run.

The Mean Green scored 18 points off of the 16 San Francisco turnovers, and players like junior guard Michael Miller and sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge hounded the Dons all night.

“We were playing good defense and rebounding,” Simmons said of their run. “We weren’t giving up any second chance points, and we were getting to the rim. Obviously we didn’t shoot it well tonight, so there was a lot of emphasis on scoring inside the arc.”

Woolridge broke the single season assist record with his five assist performance. North Texas’ leading scorer on the night was junior guard Jorden Duffy with 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting.

The CBI championship now comes down to one home game for the Mean Green.

The North Texas fans, the Dons and the Mean Green will be ready for it.

“We have a chance to cut down nets Friday,” Smart said. “We need to come out being the more aggressive team. Tonight, we jumped out on them early, and they came back, but to start the second half we got stops and easy transition buckets. Friday will be a good one. We know they’re going to bring everything they got, and we have to do the same.”

Next up: The two teams meet again in a decisive game three Friday at 6 p.m. at the Super Pit.

Featured Image: North Texas junior forward Tope Arikawe (20) grabs a rebound against San Francisco. Jake King

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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