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Men’s basketball fails to respond to early run in blowout loss at home

Men’s basketball fails to respond to early run in blowout loss at home

North Texas senior guard J-Mychal Reese (52) passes the ball around the arc. Reese finished with 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists. Colin Mitchell

Men’s basketball fails to respond to early run in blowout loss at home
November 20
18:43 2016

Halfway through the first half, the North Texas men’s basketball team was hanging with Drexel University.

Then the Dragon’s Icelandic freshman Kari Jonsson took over, and simultaneously crushed the dreams of the Mean Green faithful in attendance. Jonsson combusted for four threes, two assists and a steal in 14 minutes off the bench in the first half, and was the engine of a 27-12 run that ultimately doomed North Texas. 

The Mean Green (1-2) were never able to bounce back from the 40-21 halftime deficit, and lost to Drexel 83-62 at the Super Pit Sunday afternoon.

“I knew we’d have our work cut out for us,” head coach Tony Benford said. “They went on a run and we never recovered.We had some turnovers that cost us and I thought we pressed a little bit, but I give Drexel credit.”

After the Dragons (2-2) went on the run, their established starters took over and scored in the paint and from the outside.

Drexel’s success was as much to the credit of the undisciplined defense as it was the outstanding offense. The Mean Green constantly lost shooters off basic drives and failed to rotate appropriately when they doubled a big in the post.

As a result, the Dragons made them pay via a barrage of threes. Drexel shot 50 percent from beyond the arc on the afternoon.

“[Besides doubling the post], we weren’t tight enough on the ball screen coverage,” Benford said about defending the three. “In transition they hit a couple of threes too, so we have to do a better job of identifying the shooters.”

Senior guard J-Mychal Reese was at times a calming influence for the team on the court as he played under control and well throughout the game. His stat line of 13 points, six assists and 3-of-3 from three-point range highlight his impact.

After the run, the Mean Green began to try to speed the game up, but the quality of shots diminished as a result.

“We [started] rushing a little bit, instead of letting the offense keep flowing,” Reese said. “Teams are going to go on runs, so we can’t get it back in one play, we just have to keep moving the ball around and getting good shots.”

Sophomore center Rickey Brice Jr. came off the bench and contributed to the comeback effort, putting up 10 points and five rebounds in 22 minutes of action.

To help defend the opposing size in the post, Benford started Brice in the second half in hopes of controlling the Dragon’s bigs, and subsequently, their shooting.

“I thought Rickey’s size could bother them a little bit,” Benford said. “I thought he did a decent job while he was in there [against Rodney Williams]. And Rickey can score inside, so I thought we could pound them inside a little bit and I thought we did that.”

While the Mean Green only managed to score 21 points in the first half, the second half showed some resolve as they put up 41 in the final 20 minutes, even cutting the deficit to 13 at one point.

And despite making mistakes on both ends of the floor,  junior forward Jeremy Combs believed the team’s energy level was high enough to get the job done.

“I feel like we had enough intensity,” Combs said. “They were just knocking down shots and we weren’t.”

Combs, arguably the team’s best player, had a pedestrian performance by his standards, with 15 points and five rebounds on 50 percent shooting from the floor.

The 21-point loss featured a bevy of miscues that will need to be fixed before Conference USA play begins.

Only three games into their season, the Mean Green are not hitting the panic button yet, but know they have ground to make up.

“We have to continue to get better,” Benford said. “This is a tough loss to take at home. This is a game that we felt good about and we’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready for Rutgers in 48 hours.”

Featured Image: North Texas senior guard J-Mychal Reese (52) passes the ball around the arc. Reese finished with 13 points, 3 rebounds and 6 assists. 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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