North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball struggling on defense in road games

Men’s basketball struggling on defense in road games

Men’s basketball struggling on defense in road games
January 25
11:59 2016

Torie Mosley | Staff Writer

@toriemosley

North Texas men’s basketball stands at a pivotal point in its 2015-2016 campaign with little room for error.

The Mean Green (7-13, 2-5) hold a disappointing record so far this season after beginning the year 2-0 and averaging 111 points a game on offense. But since those two early victories, the Mean Green have gone 5-13 while giving up 80 points per game including an underwhelming 1-7 record on the road.

“We have to continue to get better defensively,” head coach Tony Benford said. “We’re scoring the ball, but we have to get stops if we want to win. Especially on the road.”

North Texas hasn’t exactly been spectacular at the Super Pit either, posting a 6-6 record in its home building. But the team’s struggling road play has begun to take a toll on the Mean Green’s position in the C-USA, now standing at 1-3 in C-USA road games with six more on the schedule.

After beating Rice University, the lowest team in the C-USA standings, a couple of weeks ago, the Mean Green have dropped four games in a row, including two road losses by 20 or more points to the top two squads in C-USA: the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Middle Tennessee University.

Both the UAB and Middle Tennessee road losses began with the Mean Green forcing close, competitive first halves before getting eventually blown out in the second halves.

“Mostly what we need to work on is communicating with one another,” graduate forward Eric Katenda said. “We have a good group of athletes. We just need to all learn to grow together and learn to trust each other instead of pointing fingers.”

Katenda, a Notre Dame graduate, joined the Mean Green in his final year of NCAA eligibility to bring a veteran in the backcourt to help replace last year’s senior leaders in Colin Voss and Jordan Williams.

Katenda said returning star players like sophomore forward Jeremy Combs and junior guard J-Mychal Reese sets the example on the court for newer players like Katenda and this year’s freshman class.

“We feed off a lot from these guys because they were here last year,” Katenda said. “It’s harder for me and the other guys to step in and do well when we’re still learning to play with each other every day.”

Reese sat out last season after transferring from Texas A&M University, but he still practiced with the team until joining the mean Green on the court this season. He said the team’s road struggles don’t stem from an inability to play well on the road, but instead from losing focus of executing the things that matter most in every game.

“It’s not just a road or home thing,” Reese said. “It’s really just our lack of doing the simple things like rebounding and defending and focusing on the other things we’re not doing right.”

The Mean Green’s next chance to win on the road comes in Houston this Saturday in a rematch against Rice. And in order to right the ship as the C-USA tournament approaches in six weeks, Benford knows his young team has to buckle down – even in a tough environment.

“It’s a mindset,” Benford said. “We have to get back to being solid defensively and taking care of the basketball. The road is tough for anybody in college or the NBA, unless you’re the [Golden State] Warriors.”

Featured Image: File Photo

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