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Men’s basketball drops third straight game despite fifth consecutive Combs double-double

Men’s basketball drops third straight game despite fifth consecutive Combs double-double

North Texas sophomore forward Jeremy Combs (1) weaves between defenders to get to the basket for a layup against Idaho. Nathan Roberts | Contributing Photographer

Men’s basketball drops third straight game despite fifth consecutive Combs double-double
January 21
22:25 2016

Torie Mosley | Staff Writer

@toriemosley

In the first matchup of a three-game road trip, North Texas lost 86-64 to Middle Tennessee State University, the No. 3 team in Conference-USA. After keeping the game close until a couple minutes into the second half, MTSU (13-5, 4-1) went on a shooting streak and never looked back.

Behind strong performances by sophomore forward Jeremy Combs (13 points, 12 rebounds) and junior guard J-Mychal Reese (20 points), the Mean Green (7-12, 2-4) were down only 34-32 at the intermission and even led 37-36 at the 18-minute mark in the second half. Then, MTSU went on a 23-5 run over the next five minutes of play to widen the gap.

“We didn’t play a full 40 [minutes] tonight,” Reese said. “They shot over 60 percent in the second half and nobody can win giving up 60 percent shooting.”

The Blue Raiders took 19 more shots than the Mean Green while also shooting 51 percent from the field. MTSU also almost doubled North Texas in assists, 19-10.

While efficient in the first half, The Mean Green’s defense crumbled in the game’s final 20 minutes.

“Our defense was really good in the first half, but we gave up too many second chance points and turnovers in the second half,” head coach Tony Benford said. “Combs has been playing well, but even he had seven turnovers tonight.”

The Mean Green were not only beat on the perimeter, but also out-rebounded by MTSU 48-37. The Blue Raiders tacked on 22 personal fouls to North Texas’ nine, showcasing a physical style of basketball.

“They’re a good team that really guards you,” Benford said. “They play you tough.”

Graduate forward Eric Katenda, who scored eight points and grabbed two rebounds, said the Mean Green could do a better job staying on the same page on the court at the end of games.

“We have to work on our communication,” Katenda said. “We need to learn how to pace ourselves on offense. We put up too many shots too quickly instead of playing together more and let the game slip away.”

North Texas has struggled against MTSU in recent years, dropping seven of its last eight match-ups. The Mean Green’s lone win in that stretch came last season at the Super Pit, where the hosts erased a 21-point second-half deficit to win 57-56.

The second half this go-around was a far different story.

“We had a chance,” Katenda said. “We were close at first, but for some reason couldn’t keep it going in the second half. Something happened. I don’t know what it was, but something happened and we never came back.”

Freshman center Rickey Brice Jr. sat out his first game of the season tonight with a headache and will possibly return to the court next game.

The Mean Green will head to Birmingham, Alabama to face the University of Alabama at Birmingham Saturday night, looking to avoid its fourth straight loss. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

Featured Image: Sophomore forward Jeremy Combs (1) weaves between defenders to get to the basket for a layup. File Photo

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