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Men’s basketball looks to climb C-USA standings, stop losing streak

Men’s basketball looks to climb C-USA standings, stop losing streak

North Texas sophomore guard Greg White-Pittman (2) draws a foul late in the game against WKU. Nathan Roberts | Contributing Photographer

Men’s basketball looks to climb C-USA standings, stop losing streak
January 29
11:11 2016

Torie Mosley | Staff Writer

@toriemosley

North Texas men’s basketball sits at 12th in the Conference USA standings with a 2-5 record in conference play so far this season. Although the Mean Green (7-13, 2-5) have had a rough start to the 2016 conference schedule, the team has plenty of time to climb the C-USA rankings before the conference tournament starts in March.

To jump its rival opponents in the standings, North Texas first needs to stop its current four-game skid. The Mean Green’s last two losses came to the top two programs in the C-USA, Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They lost by over 20 points despite staying close in the first halves.

North Texas junior point guard J-Mychal Reese (52) drives the basket against Marshall. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

North Texas junior point guard J-Mychal Reese (52) drives the basket against Marshall. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

“In the first halves, we’re playing well and executing,” head coach Tony Benford said. “Our second halves we haven’t been making defensive stops. We can’t keep having more turnovers in the second half than the first half.”

Eleven conference games remain on the Mean Green’s schedule, and North Texas only sits 1.5 games back from fifth placed Louisiana Tech University, who is seven spots ahead of the Mean Green.

“It definitely gives us confidence, but we can’t take it lightly either,” graduate forward Eric Katenda said. “In this league, the level of competition is so even I feel like anybody can win or lose any night.”

Half of the Mean Green roster consists of freshman or transfer players that did not play for North Texas last season. As the team improves chemistry and the season goes on, Katenda believes the team’s camaraderie will help them be more consistent on the court.

“There’s a lot of things we need to work on, but that all comes with maturity,” Katenda said. “Whether there’s four minutes left in the game or there’s 18, we need to stick to what we do. No matter what happens, we have to make sure we execute and give ourselves a chance to win any game.”

Junior guard J-Mychal Reese said with the amount of talent North Texas has he did not think the Mean Green would be one of the lowest ranked C-USA teams at this point of the season.

Reese said he thinks that North Texas’ biggest focus moving forward should be playing hard all 40 minutes of every remaining game.

“Some of the games I think we could’ve won, but we just let them slip away,” Reese said. “If we can get a win this weekend and get a winning streak started, we can get right back on track and make a run for conference.”

North Texas sophomore forward Jeremy Combs (1) throws down a dunk off of a break away against WKU. Nathan Roberts | Contributing Photographer

North Texas sophomore forward Jeremy Combs (1) throws down a dunk off of a break away against WKU. Nathan Roberts | Contributing Photographer

Reese said sophomore forward Jeremy Combs has been the biggest bright spot on the Mean Green roster so far this season. Combs has averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds, one block and a steal every game this year.

“He can get a double-double every night, and he probably will for the rest of this season,” Reese said. “When he gets into the paint, teams try to double team him. That opens it up for one of us to make a shot to spread the floor more.”

The Mean Green head to Houston Saturday to play Rice University, who North Texas beat 85-74 earlier this month.

“We got confidence that we can beat them again, but we can’t overlook them,” Reese said. “It was a good game last time, so I know they’re going to want to come out and beat us. So we have to go out there ready to play.”

Featured Image: North Texas sophomore guard Greg White-Pittman (2) draws a foul late in the game against WKU. Nathan Roberts | Contributing Photographer

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