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Men’s basketball falters in final seconds, falls to Louisiana Tech on the road

Men’s basketball falters in final seconds, falls to Louisiana Tech on the road

North Texas junior guard Deckie Johnson (10) drives the basket against FAU. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Men’s basketball falters in final seconds, falls to Louisiana Tech on the road
February 25
23:26 2016

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

@ReeceTapout15

North Texas men’s basketball was a mere 20 seconds away from handing Louisiana Tech University its third home loss since February 2012.

But a missed free throw by freshman guard Allante Holston in the waning moments gave the Bulldogs (21-7, 10-5) one final chance to tie or take the lead. Seconds later, Louisiana Tech took advantage of the Mean Green (11-17, 6-9) blunder, forcing overtime on a contested layup attempt. The Bulldogs then outscored North Texas 14-3 in the extra five minutes before prevailing with a 73-62 victory.

“We should have won the game,” head coach Tony Benford said. “We had opportunities. We gave it away.”

The big three for North Texas, sophomore forward Jeremy Combs and junior guards J-Mychal Reese and Deckie Johnson, combined for 53 of the team’s 62 points. Johnson led all scorers with 20 points and Combs recorded his 13th double-double of the season on 15 points and 18 rebounds. Combs also broke the Conference USA single-season rebounding record in the loss.

“I don’t believe in moral victories,” Combs said. “It’s very disappointing. I feel like we could’ve gotten the win.”

Both sides stumbled out of the gate and were generally unable to find a groove offensively. The Mean Green began the game a dismal 2-of-15 from the floor, missing layups and jump shots on seemingly every trip down the floor.

Despite this, four early Bulldog turnovers kept North Texas in the game as its offense slowly began to heat up.

“We were being aggressive and getting in the paint,” Reese said. “[This game] shows we have improved, being able to come here and take them to the wire.”

With Louisiana Tech utilizing a man-to-man defense, Reese, Johnson and Combs were frequently able to create off the dribble and finish around the rim for easy baskets. This was particularly crucial since North Texas was able to muster just four three pointers for the entire game and shot 22 percent from beyond the arc.

Even with the perimeter shots refusing to fall, the Mean Green was able to take a 24-23 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Bulldogs made adjustments though, giving North Texas several defensive looks in the second half.

With less than eight minutes remaining in the game, Louisiana Tech switched to a 1-3-1 trap to create on-ball pressure. This led to an 11-1 Bulldogs run and extended its lead to 47-42 before Benford called a timeout.

North Texas refused to go away, answering the Louisiana Tech run with one of its own, eventually retaking the lead at 53-51 on a three pointer from the corner by Johnson for the eighth lead change of the game.

From there, the game was the epitome of a back-and-forth affair, with each team matching the other score-for-score until the Mean Green forced a turnover with under 20 seconds remaining. After catching the proceeding inbounds pass, Holston had a chance to ice the game, but missed the front end of his one and one free throw.

After the Bulldogs made the aforementioned layup to tie the game, Louisiana Tech completely dominated the overtime period, holding North Texas scoreless for the first minute and a half before building what would be an insurmountable lead.

“It’s really tough because I feel like we had them at the end of regulation,” Reese said. “[The win] would have meant a lot, especially since they never lose here. It would have boosted our confidence.”

Next up: North Texas travels to take on the University of Southern Mississippi on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Featured Image: Junior guard Deckie Johnson (10) drives the basket. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

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