North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball looks to improve consistency

Men’s basketball looks to improve consistency

Men’s basketball looks to improve consistency
January 28
23:54 2015

Scott Sidway / Staff Writer

After downing the No. 1 team in Conference USA last week, the Mean Green men’s basketball team was riding high. A few days later, it lost to the last place team in C-USA.

“That’s been our problem this year. We’ve been an up-and-down team,” senior forward Colin Voss said.

On Dec. 21, the Mean Green beat a then 9-3 Creighton University team that made the NCAA tournament last year, but responded just two days later with a loss to a Prairie View A&M University team that was only 1-10 at the time.

Fast forward to conference play just a week ago. North Texas was able to take down an undefeated in conference Louisiana Tech University squad. But it was déjà vu for the Mean Green, as it followed up its second signature win of the season with a home loss to the winless in conference Golden Eagles of the University of Southern Mississippi.

Currently, the Mean Green sports an 8-11 overall record with a 2-5 record in conference play, putting the team at 11th place in the conference. At this time last season, it had an identical conference record but slightly better 11-8 overall record.

Fortunately for North Texas, 12 of the 14 teams in the conference qualify for the postseason tournament in early March. The top four teams get a bye in the tournament, and USM will not be in the tournament no matter what due to a self-imposed postseason ban. So barring an extended winning or losing streak, the Mean Green will likely play on the opening day of the tournament.

The inconsistencies throughout the season are still a concern for North Texas. Voss said keeping the emotional roller coaster in check from win to loss is critical to the team’s success.

“We can’t get too high and too low with our emotions,” Voss said. “After a big win, you have to come out and try to repeat that. You can’t go back down.”

Senior guard Jordan Williams said consistency in the middle of the game is equally as important as consistency between games.

“We always come out in the first half and seem to have a lead and seem to be having a good game,” Williams said. “Then in the second half, I don’t know. We start turning the ball over a little too much and give up a couple offensive rebounds and give the game away. So that’s a problem.”

Voss said if the team does not  stay focused and consistent, every game is up for grabs.

“When we’re focused and we come to play, we’re pretty good,” Voss said. “And the games that we come and aren’t focused and aren’t prepared, we could lose to any team in the country.”

In its final 11 games, the Mean Green still faces six teams that have a sub .500 conference record. However, only five of the final 11 games will be at home.

With an already subpar 1-3 conference record at the Super Pit, head coach Tony Benford said improving at home is on his agenda.

“You’ve got to take care of your home court. That’s one thing I preach to these guys,” Benford said. “I want to put a shout out to our fans and our students and everybody that comes and supports this group. We’ve really been working hard, but we’ve just got to stay consistent.”

One element to the Mean Green’s schedule that could help consistency down the stretch is common opponents from last year. North Texas defeated six of the team’s final 11 opponents at some point in the last two seasons, so familiarity could play to the Mean Green’s advantage in its second season in C-USA.

“We’ve kind of got a feel of what some of these coaches are going to do, and there’s great coaches in this league,” Benford said. “There are some great players. It’s a great guards league. You’ve got to bring it every night.”

Williams said the familiarity factor is advantageous for more than just the Mean Green.

“I think it plays to both teams,” Williams said. “Sometimes in the game, they know the plays before we even get to run them. So it’s kind of hard.”

Benford said there is still reason for optimism despite the slow start. Last Saturday’s loss to USM was the first game all season in which every eligible member of the team was active for the game from either injury or suspension.

With a game against Rice University in Denton on Saturday night and a handful of winnable games remaining on the schedule, Benford said his team still has potential to grow and compete at a high level.

“We still have a long way to go, and this group can still get better because we’re healthy,” Benford said.

Featured Image: The Mean Green men’s basketball team listens to head coach Tony Benford on the bench. From left to right: T.J. Taylor, Colin Voss, Jeremy Combs, Maurice Aniefiok and Jordan Williams. Photo by Byron Thompson – Senior Staff Photographer

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