North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball loses 11th straight despite big game from Lawson, Woolridge

Men’s basketball loses 11th straight despite big game from Lawson, Woolridge

February 04
17:55 2017

Matt Brune | Staff Writer

Two freshmen dominated for the Mean Green in their Saturday afternoon home game against Rice. A.J. Lawson (31 points) and Ryan Woolridge (21) accounted for 52 of the team’s 80 points on 59 percent shooting in North Texas’ 95-80 loss to Rice University.

It was a strong effort from the underclassmen, but the rest of the Mean Green (6-16, 0-10) struggled to contribute while combining to score just 28 points on 11-for-41 shooting.

“I thought these two freshmen played their butt off,” head coach Tony Benford said. “A.J. came in and was aggressive [and] got us going and Ryan was aggressive the whole game. These young kids are growing up fast and they’re competing.”

Lawson and Woolridge had no trouble carrying the offensive load, but the lack of support proved to be too much to handle as Rice (15-8, 5-5) used an attack that spaced the floor and shared the ball effectively.

The Owls had six players score nine or more points.

The issues for the Mean Green came defensively, and Rice was able to get easy baskets when pushing the ball as North Texas failed to get back on defense properly. The Owls capitalized on several transition opportunities in the game.

“Well [our transition defense] wasn’t good early obviously, we didn’t get back early,” Benford said. “We wanted to make them play against a set defense and we did not do that all night.”

Even when Benford’s team was able to force Rice into a half-court offense, the result was still either a quality shot, an offensive rebound or a foul in favor of the Owls.

Rice outrebounded North Texas 46 to 34 and shot 46.9 percent in the game.

“At the beginning [our defense] wasn’t as intense as it should’ve been,” Woolridge said. “In the second half it started to pick it up, that’s why we started to come back, and then we kind of let up at the end.”

Right from the tip, the Owls out-executed the Mean Green as they took a 30-9 lead in the first 10 minutes.

In the first half, even Woolridge struggled while posting just five points. Lawson seemed to be the Mean Green’s only hope as he dropped 17 in the first half, keeping the team afloat.

But the entire team, including Lawson, struggled with defensive rotations and guarding the Owls.

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“I don’t think we came out with the fire and we were just trying to cruise,” Woolridge said. “We weren’t really being aggressive.”

Lawson surpassed his previous career high by eight points as he looked comfortable and focused for the duration of the game. He forced his way to the free-throw line 15 times and converted on 10 of them.

“[I was] Just attacking the basket and [shooting] free throws,” Lawson said. “I can’t rely on my shot and I have to create space for myself, so if I attack the basket I can get more open and that’s what I did.”

The losses continue to rack up for the Mean Green, as the team has now lost 11 straight games and 10 straight in Conference USA play. With the injuries and all of the shortcomings this season, Lawson and Woolridge have continued to shoulder the load as freshmen.

North Texas is three games behind Florida Atlantic University, which they would have to pass to make the Conference USA tournament in just over a month.

“Obviously we’re disappointed where we’re at,” Benford said. “It’s tough, but we have to keep working hard and see if we can win some games to get in the tournament.”

Next up: North Texas faces FAU on the road at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Featured Image: North Texas freshman guard Ryan Woolridge (0) drives the basket for an acrobatic layup against Rice University. Woolridge scored a career-high of 21 points. 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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