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Men’s basketball holds off Sul Ross in home opener

Men’s basketball holds off Sul Ross in home opener

Senior guard Deckie Johnson drives the lan against Sul Ross State. Deckie broke a regualar season record by hitting 16 free throws. Colin Mitchell

Men’s basketball holds off Sul Ross in home opener
November 11
23:30 2016

Behind strong performances from returners, North Texas men’s basketball downed Sul Ross State University 85-77 to open its 2016 campaign.

Senior guard Deckie Johnson led the way with 23 points, four rebounds and two assists, and was a perfect 16-for-16 from the free throw line. Johnson now holds the regular season record for the most made and attempted free throws in a game.

The Lobos forced Johnson off the three-point line, so he altered his game and started finishing around the rim.

“I was just trying to attack,” Johnson said.

Johnson led the crop of returners, which included sophomores Ja’Michael Brown and Rickey Bryce Jr. Freshman guard AJ Lawson also notched 14 points to go along with three rebounds and two assists in his collegiate debut.

Despite this, the Mean Green turned the ball over 24 times, letting Division 3 Sul Ross stay close until the waning moments of the game.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we know that,” head coach Tony Benford said. “There were some turnovers where I was just shaking my head. We just got to take care of the basketball. We just threw the ball away a lot of times.”

The Mean Green found defending the Lobos’ deep ball nearly impossible, so Sul Ross took what the Mean Green were giving them on the perimeter. The Lobos made it rain in the first half from downtown, going 8-of-19 from beyond the arc.

Only 10 of Sul Ross’ points came on shots that were not threes, with six coming from the free-throw line and two on regular field goals.

North Texas made the necessary adjustments at halftime, though, and only allowed two more threes the entire game. The Lobos finished 10-of-31 from three-point land.

“That’s us not guarding,” Benford said. “We’ve got to do a better job of one-on-one defending.”

The Mean Green made the most of 13 first half Lobo turnovers and finished the half with three scorers in double digits as Johnson, Brown and Bryce all had over 10.

Brice impressed in the first half as he dominated inside and used his newfound jump shot en route to a 10 point, six rebound first half. He finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, tying a career-high in points.

“I feel pretty good,” Brice said. “In the beginning of the game our intensity level was pretty low. We’ve got to pick it up. We got our tempo up.”

But turnovers continued to bite the Mean Green in the second half, which helped Sul Ross hang around.

North Texas coughed the ball up 13 times in the final 20 minutes, a key reason it took nearly the entire game for them to establish a lead.

Fortunately for the Mean Green, though, Lawson’s 10 points in the second half helped close out the win.

“We needed that,” Benford said. “We were stagnant, and he went and made some plays. He’s fearless. He’s going to be a good player for us.”

Next up: North Texas travels to take on Texas Tech University at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Featured Image: Senior guard Deckie Johnson drives the lane against Sul Ross State. Deckie broke a regular season record by hitting 16 free throws. Colin Mitchell

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Clay Massey

Clay Massey

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