North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball drops fifth straight game against Rice

Men’s basketball drops fifth straight game against Rice

January 30
22:14 2016

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

@ReeceTapout15

A lack of bench production doomed North Texas on Saturday night, as the Mean Green (7-14, 2-6) got just three points from its reserves in a 95-87 loss to Rice University on the road.

Over the past four games, the North Texas bench has been outscored 138-18, a staggering deficit which has often dug the Mean Green into holes it has not been able to climb out of.

“We’re relying heavily on our starters, and that’s tough,” head coach Tony Benford said. “Guys have to come in and take advantage of the opportunities they have. They have to be ready when we put them in.”

Sophomore forward Jeremy Combs recorded his seventh consecutive double-double before the first half ended and finished the night with 25 points and 13 rebounds. But late foul trouble and halftime adjustments by the Owls (7-14, 2-6) limited Combs’ production in the second half, as the Dallas native had just eight points and two rebounds in the final 20 minutes.

“I thought Jeremy played his heart out,” Benford said. “It’s unfortunate we’re not winning, because he could arguably be up for player of the year the way he is playing.”

The first half was a game of runs, as Rice went on an 11-0 run to take a 30-21 lead. But North Texas matched the Owls’ run with one of its own, going on a 12-2 run to retake the lead at 33-32. The see-saw affair continued until halftime, and the Owls entered the locker room up 40-37.

Rice stormed out of the gate in the second half, making its first seven shots to push its lead back to nine points. Unlike the first half, Rice was determined to not let Combs beat them down the stretch, frequently double-teaming him and going to a zone defense to prevent easy baskets in the paint.

“They really didn’t do anything special,” Combs said of Rice’s second half adjustments. “I got caught up in the game and was just trying to do whatever I could for my team.”

Other players for the Mean Green stepped up when the Owls took Combs away, most notably graduate forward Eric Katenda and junior guard J-Mychal Reese. They finished with 16 and 23 points, respectively.

The Mean Green looked poised to get back into the game when Combs threw down a backdoor alley-oop slam dunk, which propelled North Texas to make eight of its next 10 shots to pull to within 64-59 midway through the second half. But the Mean Green defense failed them in the waning moments, as the Owls shot 56 percent from the field and 48 percent from beyond the arc to seal the game.

“The ball is going in the basket, that’s not the problem,” Katenda said. “They scored 95 points. We’re just allowing too many points against us.”

Next up: North Texas hosts the University of Southern Mississippi Thursday Feb. 4 at the Super Pit. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Featured Image: J-Mychal Reese finished the game with 23 points, despite the team losing to Rice University. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

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