North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball unable to overcome second half deficit in fourth straight loss

Men’s basketball unable to overcome second half deficit in fourth straight loss

February 22
21:01 2018

Both teams had chances to win Thursday night in Miami, Florida. While Florida International University went 4-of-12 from the free throw line in the second half and failed to secure the game there, North Texas had a game-winning floater by sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge rim out at the buzzer.

Both teams failed to score a field goal in the final 2:51 of play.

Despite neither team being able to take advantage of the other’s shortcomings, the Panthers came out of the contest on top 69-68.

“I thought we got some great looks in the second half, especially down the stretch, [we] just couldn’t get them to go,”  head coach Grant McCasland said. “I felt like we were getting some stops and it was a good run for us. We started guarding ball screens well, then I felt like we got three or four of our best looks to finish the game and we just came up short.”

The Mean Green (14-14, 7-8) fell behind to Florida International (12-17, 6-9) early in both the first and second halves.

In the first half, the Panthers’ lead hovered around seven or eight for the majority of the time before North Texas closed the half on an 8-0 run to take a 36-35 lead into halftime. In the second half, though, Florida International reestablished their grasp on the game with a 12-2 run to go up by nine in under four minutes of play.

At one point, the Panthers led by 13 before the Mean Green fought back to have a shot to win at the buzzer.

“We should have played harder from the jump,” junior forward Tope Arikawe said. “We should have done better defensively from the start, but we’re just moving on to the next game now.”

Arikawe started his second game of the season on Thursday for the injured freshman forward Zachary Simmons who was sidelined with a sore knee. In 22 minutes, Arikawe had 12 points and eight rebounds but the big man rotation never felt comfortable for McCasland.

Simmons’ absence was felt as the Panthers outrebounded the Mean Green while also having more points in the paint and second-chance points.

“It definitely hurt us [not having him],” McCasland said. “Defensively we really struggled in the first half not giving up second shots. With Zach we want to be cautious, we don’t want to put him in any risk for further injury and I don’t think there is, but we were a little more cautious on this one.”

Sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart, scored less than half of his average in the loss, finishing with nine points on 3-of-13 shooting and 3-of-10 on 3-pointers.

Meanwhile, sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge often kept North Texas close with his timely buckets. He totaled 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting with nine rebounds and four blocks.

This marks the fourth straight loss for the Mean Green and their last three have had a combined difference of two points at the end of the three regulations. With three games left, McCasland sets back out to right the ship, starting on Saturday.

“From a confidence standpoint, us winning a close one will help us get over the hump,” McCasland said. “In the meantime, you gotta just put your nose down and keep working.”

Next up: North Texas stays in Florida to take on Florida Atlantic University on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Featured image: North Texas junior Tope Arikawe shoots the ball in a conference match against Florida Atlantic Univeristy on Jan. 25 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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