North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball preparing for postseason tournament

Men’s basketball preparing for postseason tournament

Men’s basketball preparing for postseason tournament
March 06
23:38 2019

The North Texas men’s basketball team (20-10, 8-9 Conference USA) will participate in the C-USA Basketball Championships in Frisco starting on March 13 following their last regular season game against Florida International (18-12, 9-8 C-USA) on March 9. One round will be played per day, totaling a four-day tournament ending on March 16. The Mean Green are looking to finish the season strong despite a six-game losing streak and to use the upcoming matchup against the Golden Panthers to sharpen their tools for competing in the conference tournament.

“We’ve tried to improve defensively because we’ve taken a step back in that area lately,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “We’ve tried to be more fundamental in practice for what we want to do defensively going forward.”

The last time North Texas played at Florida International they lost 69-59 on Feb. 16, 2019. They had six active players due to key injuries with junior guard Ryan Woolridge, senior guard Jordan Duffy and redshirt sophomore Jahmiah Simmons. North Texas allowed the Golden Panthers to shoot 13-for-29 from three. Despite the Mean Green being No. 1 in C-USA when guarding opponents against 3-pointers (31 percent), this would be the first time the Mean Green had allowed 13 made 3-pointers in a game this season.

A similar song was played during their last game in an 85-82 loss to Marshall when the Mean Green were without Woolridge. They surrendered 13 made 3-pointers (13-for-28) to the Thundering Herd, making that the second time this season within a span of two games.

“Our approach lately has just been getting back to basics of what got to be the best defense in the league,” McCasland said.

Woolridge has still been hampered with tendinitis in his knee and is listed as questionable to play against Florida International, according to McCasland. However, there is hope that Woolridge could be ready for the start of the conference tournament on Wednesday.

Last season, the Mean Green lost the C-USA Tournament opener to Louisiana Tech in a 68-62 loss. However, during that game Woolridge led the team in minutes played (40), assists (6) and was tied for the team-high in points (20). With the emergence of redshirt freshman guard Umoja Gibson, who now leads the team in points (13.3) and minutes (35.3), the introduced style of attrition on opposing defenses could bode well for senior guard Jorden Duffy as he aims to help lead North Texas into a successful tournament season.

“I can bring leadership that shows the guys that we got what it takes to win the tournament,” Duffy said. “It matters, preparing every day, the right way and helping guys get ready.”  

Duffy has been back with the Mean Green for three games now after an eight-game absence due to injury. Over the last three games, Duffy has averaged 30 minutes, 4.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 11.3 points per game, shooting 43 percent from the field. Duffy played 10 minutes without scoring any points or taking shots during last season’s first-round conference tournament loss to Louisiana Tech. The senior guard will aim to serve a larger role this time around.

Despite North Texas’ inability to stay above .500 in conference play, they have confidence in their ability to bounce back regardless of the conference seeding. According to McCasland, he thinks North Texas will place in the eight, nine or 10 seed and mentioned that their desired seeding was originally to stay at the six seed. With their current position at No. 9, the Mean Green would be slated to play  the Southern Miss Golden Eagles (17-11, 9-7 C-USA). The Golden Eagles and Mean Green faced off earlier in the season on Jan. 5 — North Texas came out on top 65-62. The official seedings for the C-USA Tournament will be announced Saturday, Mar. 9.

“We have a good coaching staff that’s keeping us together as a team and that’s one thing that’s really big for us, to stand together,” sophomore forward Zachary Simmons said. “We know we’re a really good team and we can come out on the floor and beat anybody.”

Featured Image: Mean Green redshirt junior DJ Draper drives against a Marshall defender on senior night in the super pit on March 3, 2019. Image by: Trevon McWilliams.

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Matt Suarez

Matt Suarez

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