North Texas Daily

Defensive woes lead to fourth loss in last five games for men’s basketball

Defensive woes lead to fourth loss in last five games for men’s basketball

Defensive woes lead to fourth loss in last five games for men’s basketball
January 20
19:12 2018

North Texas has hit a rough patch in its season. The Mean Green have now lost four of their last five games, three of which came against teams that entered the game with a losing record in Conference USA play.

The team’s last three losses came by a combined six points. But Saturday, a combination of problems led to North Texas suffering a 85-78 road loss to the University of Southern Mississippi.

“Unfortunately, to start the game we dug ourselves too deep of a hole,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “Our defensive intensity was not acceptable and we made some quick lineup changes through the first half.”

North Texas’ (10-10, 3-4) poor defensive effort from the opening tip gave the Golden Eagles (11-10, 4-4) a significant advantage that extended the lead to as many as 17 in the first half. Southern Miss shot 54 percent from the field and was 5-of-11 on 3-pointers in the first half, taking a 42-28 lead into the break.

The defense gave up even more on the scoreboard in the second half as the Golden Eagles scored 43 points. While the Mean Green held Southern Miss to just 40 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes, the Golden Eagles were 17-of-20 from the free throw line which allowed them to close out the game on top.

“When you play on the road you have to come out and hit them in the mouth and that’s not what we did,” sophomore point guard Ryan Woolridge said. “We played defensively and they were hot so we couldn’t stop them.”

Southern Miss guard Tyree Griffin finished with 29 points on 8-of-14 shooting and was 10-of-12 from the charity stripe.

Woolridge and junior forward Tope Arikawe led the way for North Texas as Woolridge notched 20 points and nine assists in 40 minutes while Arikawe had his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Arikawe was also the only player on the Mean Green to have a positive plus/minus and he finished plus-15 in 20 minutes of action.

“Tope gave us a good look [defensively] and a different level of intensity,” McCasland said. “He’s just more comfortable with the system and how we play. He’s got the competitiveness we want and he understands how we want to guard defensively.”

The team’s usual leading scorer, sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart, had one of his quieter games and finished with 18 points on just 4-of-13 shooting.  Southern Miss entered with a clear a game plan to slow him down.

“[They were] denying him the ball and trying to limit the wing’s touches,” Woolridge said. “Coach had a gameplan and they denied the wings, so he changed the gameplan and let me attack off the ball screens.”

This loss marked the end of nearly a stretch spanning nearly a month and a half where the Mean Green played seven games on the road and only two at the Super Pit.

North Texas is now .500 in C-USA play for the first time and is now focused on regaining some of that lost momentum.

“We can’t start off slow in the first half,” Woolridge said. “We have to play really physical and get after people on defense. That’s really it.”

Next up: The Mean Green return home to face Florida Atlantic University at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Featured image: University of North Texas Mean Green Men’s Basketball v Old Dominion University at the Super Pit in Denton on January 6, 2018 (Photo Rick Yeatts Photography/Colin Mitchell)

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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