Men’s basketball defeats Rice to avenge last season’s C-USA tournament loss

Men’s basketball defeats Rice to avenge last season’s C-USA tournament loss

Men’s basketball defeats Rice to avenge last season’s C-USA tournament loss
January 09
16:06 2016

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

@ReeceTapout15

North Texas returned home from a two game road trip and defeated Rice University on Saturday afternoon 85-74. The win was the Mean Green’s (7-9, 2-1 CUSA) first at home this season against a Conference USA opponent.

The Owls (5-11, 0-3 CUSA) struggled from the outset offensively, scoring just 22 points in the first half on 18 percent shooting. As a result, North Texas held the lead for all but 18 seconds of the game.

Several Mean Green players put their stamp on the game with plays that electrified the crowd and energized the team. Graduate forward Eric Katenda Euro-stepped a defender and finished with an and-one dunk to give the Mean Green a 24 point lead in the second half, its largest of the game. He finished the game with 18 points, a season high.

Sophomore forward Jeremy Combs also made multiple key plays down the stretch, sinking two clutch free throws with under 90 seconds remaining to maintain North Texas’ double-digit lead. He ended the game with 22 points and 12 rebounds, recording a double-double in consecutive games.

Neither team got off to a great start, as the Owls and Mean Green combined for 11 points through four minutes of play. North Texas took an early lead on the back of two free throws by junior guard Deckie Johnson, but it was not until a change in momentum that the Mean Green took charge of the game.

Freshman guard Ja’Michael Brown brought the crowd to its feet midway through the first half when he stole a pass at midcourt and finished at the other end with a one-handed dunk. This ultimately propelled a 7-0 North Texas run which forced a Rice timeout.

But the Owls’ offensive difficulties only manifested out of the timeout, as Rice endured a three minute scoreless stretch. The missed shots not only caused a problem for the Owls offensively, but defensively as well. North Texas frequently took long rebounds and ran in transition, which led to an incredibly fast paced game. The result was multiple easy baskets for the Mean Green and a 33 to 22 halftime lead.

Rice made several adjustments at the intermission to combat North Texas’ offensive prowess, including switching to man and full court press defenses. And while the different defensive looks presented a few problems at first, the Mean Green had an answer, most notably through Katenda. The forward sparked yet another North Texas run capped off by his and-one dunk to give his team a 24 point cushion.

Despite trailing for nearly the entirety of the game, the Owls refused to go away. Rice made a run of its own late in the second half and cut the Mean Green lead to 71 to 61 with just over three minutes to play. Freshman guard Marcus Evans led all scorers with 28 points, but it was not enough for the Owls to erase a 24 point deficit and North Texas went home victorious.

Next Up: North Texas hosts Marshall University on Thursday, Jan. 14. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

North Texas junior guard Ja’Michael Brown (3) rises for a layup. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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