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Missed free throws doom men’s basketball in loss to WKU

Missed free throws doom men’s basketball in loss to WKU

North Texas sophomore guard Greg White-Pittman (2) draws a foul late in the game against WKU. Nathan Roberts | Contributing Photographer

Missed free throws doom men’s basketball in loss to WKU
January 16
22:42 2016

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

@ReeceTapout15

Eleven missed free throws proved costly for North Texas, as it suffered its second straight defeat on Saturday night against Western Kentucky University.

North Texas shot 80 percent from the charity stripe in the first half but were a dismal 43.8 percent in the second half, including several misses in the final minutes of the game. Sophomore forward Jeremy Combs was one of the best free throw shooters on the team, going 5-6 from the line during an early stretch in which he scored the team’s first 14 points.

North Texas coach Tony Benford huddles with the players in the final minutes of the game against WKU. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

North Texas coach Tony Benford huddles with the players in the final minutes of the game against WKU. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

“It’s very disappointing,” Combs said of the team’s struggles at the free throw line. “But we’re going to keep working on them, and we’ll make them next time.”

The Hilltoppers began the game in a man-to-man defense, which North Texas frequently exploited on dribble drives and fast break opportunities. The result was 10 first half trips to the free throw line and an early 14-7 lead.

But the tides turned at halftime when Western Kentucky switched to a 3-2 zone defense to prevent penetration into the paint. This limited Combs’ offensive chances, and after a 17-point first half, Combs had just five points in all of the second half. He finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, his fourth consecutive double-double.

“When they went into the zone, we got a little stagnant,” head coach Tony Benford said. “I knew they were going to run it. We had some great looks when we went through it early, we just didn’t convert. We got behind in the second half and were playing catch up. We were never able to get over the hump.”

Junior guard J-Mychal Reese posted his second highest point total in a Mean Green uniform, scoring 23 points while dishing out seven assists. With freshman guard Ja’Michael Brown in foul trouble for the majority of the night, Reese was forced to take several shots throughout the game to draw the defense out of the paint.

North Texas senior forward Eric Katenda (20) passes the ball while driving the lane against WKU. Katenda 4-4 from the free throw line despite a team 58 percent from the line. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

North Texas senior forward Eric Katenda (20) passes the ball while driving the lane against WKU. Katenda 4-4 from the free throw line despite a team 58 percent from the line. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

“I was just trying to be aggressive and get our shooters shots,” Reese said. “They kept leaving me open coming off ball screens on elbow shots, so I just kept pulling up. And after I hit a few, I felt like that was an easy shot for me to make.”

The Western Kentucky bench outscored the North Texas bench 53-7 and was also 15.6 percent better than the Mean Green at the charity stripe. Combs, Reese and junior guard Deckie Johnson combined for 61 of North Texas’ 76 points, but it was ultimately not enough for a Mean Green victory.

“The thing that came back to get us was free throw shooting,” Benford said. “We have to remember that, and we’re going to continue to work on it. In the second half we’re 43 percent, so I’m disappointed in the loss.”

Featured Image: North Texas sophomore guard Greg White-Pittman (2) draws a foul late in the game against WKU. Nathan Roberts | Contributing Photographer

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