North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball snaps three-game losing streak, overcomes slow start in win over Niagra

Men’s basketball snaps three-game losing streak, overcomes slow start in win over Niagra

Freshman guard A.J. Lawson (12) drives the baseline against Sul Ross State. Colin Mitchell

Men’s basketball snaps three-game losing streak, overcomes slow start in win over Niagra
November 25
22:20 2016

It was a tale of two halves Friday night at the Super Pit.

For the first 20 minutes, North Texas men’s basketball looked anemic and sluggish on offense, scoring 27 points on 36 percent shooting.

But it’s not about how you start — it’s about how you finish.

The Mean Green (2-3) dropped 53 points in the second half to snap a three-game losing skid and get back in the win column for the first time in two weeks, defeating Niagara University 80-71. Led by a 20-point performance from senior guard J-Mychal Reese, North Texas overcame the absence of junior forward Jeremy Combs, who may be sidelined for an extended period of time with an ankle injury.

“We’re looking at hopefully a couple weeks,” head coach Tony Benford said when asked about a timetable for Combs’ return. “We’re not going to rush him back. We want to make sure he’s healthy. Hopefully he will be able to come back soon, and if not we’ll just see what happens.”

Reese led the charge offensively, especially down the stretch. When the Mean Green needed a bucket, he either got it or facilitated the scoring. Several times Purple Eagles (1-5) defenders sagged off and dared him to shoot, which he did to the tune of 50 percent shooting from the floor and beyond the arc.

“I’m just being aggressive and looking for my teammates and taking my shot,” Reese said. “If I happen to get an open shot, I’ll take it.”

With Combs out, North Texas also leaned on senior guard Deckie Johnson, who scored 14 second half points and shot 50 percent from the field.

The Mean Green also got contributions from freshman guard A.J. Lawson, especially on the defensive end. A long and lengthy defender, Lawson disrupted Niagara’s passing lanes and wreaked havoc on the perimeter.

“I just played my role,” Lawson said. “And that was to stop their team. We played hard together as a team and that was the reason the defense played so well.”

Both teams stumbled out of the gate, and failed to get on the board until almost three minutes into the game when Reese drove the lane and floated a tear drop off the front rim. The offensive woes continued throughout the first 20 minutes, as North Texas shot just 25 percent from three-point range with an often stagnant attack.

After halftime, however, it was a different story, as both teams seemed to find their rhythm. The Mean Green made an emphasis to push the tempo and run in transition, which helped create easier shots. As North Texas discovered its offense, they began to pull away, and got a lead late in the second half it never relinquished.

“We have to play with a passion every night, and I thought we did that tonight on both [ends of the floor],” Benford said.

Next up: The Mean Green host Hartford at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Featured Image: Freshman guard A.J. Lawson (12) drives the baseline against Sul Ross State. Colin Mitchell

About Author

Reece Waddell

Reece Waddell

Reece Waddell was the Editor-in-Chief of the North Texas Daily from May 2017 to December 2017. He previously served as the Sports Editor and Senior Sports Writer. Reece also worked at The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV.

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