North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball scraps way to OT before Hilltoppers secure win

Men’s basketball scraps way to OT before Hilltoppers secure win

February 16
00:50 2018

Another comeback, another overtime game and another game where an improbable three gave the Mean Green life. This was nothing new to North Texas, but Western Kentucky University is among the best in Conference USA every year for a reason.

And Thursday night in the Super Pit they proved why, defeating the Mean Green 102-94.

“They kept scoring all night long.” head coach Grant McCasland said. “We couldn’t guard them. We especially couldn’t guard them in overtime.”

Sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge hit a step back corner three to tie the game at 80, completing the evaporation of an eight-point Hilltopper lead in just over two minutes.

In overtime, Western Kentucky (19-7, 11-2) rolled out a lineup comprised of transfers from the universities of Kansas and Virginia, respectively, two four-star freshmen and one senior who averages over 14 for a third straight season.

Due to foul trouble and an injury, McCasland was only able to play a lineup consisting of two starters and their fourth forward in terms of minutes played this season.

As a result, the Hilltoppers scored 22 points in the five extra minutes to North Texas’ 14,

Western Kentucky won the game, but not before the Mean Green (14-12, 7-6) made a statement with their effort in regulation.

“We started playing with more energy, came together and made tough plays,” sophomore guard DJ Draper said. “Especially down the stretch, [by] boxing out and getting rebounds.”

North Texas shot 13-of-25 on 3-pointers in the contest and consistently made timely threes to not let the game get out of hand in the second half.

Sophomore Roosevelt Smart shot 6-of-10 on 3-point shots for 22 total points and Draper was 4-of-7 from behind the arc for 14 points.

“We were getting pretty tight, but then Rose did a great job of making a bunch of timely threes to help us keep the deficit from getting out of hand.,” Draper said. “Then we tried making some tough plays down the stretch to chip away at the lead.”

Western Kentucky shot 48 free throws on the night and made 37 of them. North Texas would not have the same fortune, shooting only 13 free throws and converting on seven.

Both freshman Zachary Simmons and sophomore guard A.J. Lawson fouled out Thursday night. Lawson finished the game with 17 points seven assists and five rebounds while Simmons had 10 points and five rebounds.

“[Western Kentucky] sat in the 2-3 zone and they just didn’t foul,” McCasland said. “Then, when we got in their close to the rim, Coleby with his shot blocking and his size caused us problems. Then on our side we were playing man, being physical and they kept putting us in tough situations.”

Having faced the two top teams in Conference USA in back to back games, McCasland knows where his team is and what they are working with moving forward.

“We got a lot of fight to us,” McCasland said. “We found a way to get back into the game and get into overtime and they flexed their muscle. You have to make every possession tough on them and we had too many errors tonight.”

Next up: The Mean Green face another top-tier C-USA team in Marshall University Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Super Pit.

Featured image: North Texas sophomore A.J. Lawson goes in for a layup in a conference game against Western Kentucky University on Feb. 15 at the Super Pit. Sara Carpenter

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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