North Texas Daily

Recap: Men’s basketball drops first home loss against Bulldogs despite Zachary Simmons passing new milestone

Recap: Men’s basketball drops first home loss against Bulldogs despite Zachary Simmons passing new milestone

Recap: Men’s basketball drops first home loss against Bulldogs despite Zachary Simmons passing new milestone
February 06
11:03 2021

After coming into the matchup on a four-game winning streak, North Texas men’s basketball sustained their first home loss of the season to Louisiana Tech University on Feb. 5 by a score of 68-63.

Senior forward Zachary Simmons reached a career milestone in the loss, hitting 1,000 career points early in the first half on an alley-oop dunk. Simmons finished with six points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks on the night.

“He’s tremendous and he cares a lot about winning,” Head coach Grant McCasland said. “He’ll be excited about 1,000 later on after the season’s over, but right now I know he’s the kind of guy that wishes we’d have won the game. He’d prefer to have that than the 1,000. […] He’s a winner and we wouldn’t be where we are, we wouldn’t have won championships if it wasn’t for Zach Simmons as our anchor and a foundation of our program.”

It was a close game throughout with six ties and 14 lead changes as neither team led by more than nine points, but the Bulldogs (15-5, 8-3 Conference USA) pulled ahead for good with some late free throws. North Texas (9-6, 5-2 C-USA) trailed by two points with 22 seconds left after a layup from freshman guard Rubin Jones, but Louisiana Tech made 3-of-6 free throws down the stretch and the Mean Green had a crucial turnover and missed 3-pointer late which cost them the game.

“This definitely hurts, but just forget about it quickly,” Senior guard James Reese said. “Back to the basics tomorrow. We just got to talk more, do the little things so we can come out on top.”

Leading North Texas in scoring was senior forward Thomas Bell, who scored 15 of the team’s 32 first-half points. Bell finished with 17 points and three rebounds, fouling out with 10 seconds left in the game.

Senior guard Javion Hamlet struggled at times in the loss, finishing with seven points and three assists on 3-of-8 from the field. Jones provided production off the bench, however, tallying 10 points and four assists in 25 minutes and recording the team’s highest plus-minus rating at plus-17. Hamlet’s rating was minus-17, the team’s lowest.

“That’s the thing you love about this team,” McCasland said. “We got different guys that can do it on different nights. Rubin definitely was tremendous, and I’m thankful for the way he’s competing and growing as a player.”

One stat McCasland said was key in the loss was allowing 34 points in the paint to the Bulldogs. Sophomore forward Isaiah Crawford led the Bulldogs with 27 points and freshman forward Kenneth Lofton Jr. added 14 points of his own, with the two players scoring 32 of their 41 combined points on 2-point shots.

“In the second half, they started isolating from the perimeter more,” McCasland said. “They were scoring through us and driving around us. […] I thought their aggressiveness driving to the basket was the difference in the game.”

With the Mean Green set to tip-off again at 1 p.m. on Saturday, McCasland said the team has a unique opportunity to respond to the loss.

“This is about as short a turnaround as you’ll ever get in a basketball game, so we’ve got to respond quick,” McCasland said. “I told our guys in the locker room, this is a great opportunity. Most times you get 48 hours, you get to stew on it. […] You get a chance to do something about it. We gotta get rest and be able to do something about it tomorrow.”

UP NEXT: The Mean Green will go for a split of their series against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, with tipoff set for 1 p.m. from the Super Pit.

Featured Image: Senior forward Zachary Simmons looks for an open Mean Green teammate against Louisiana Tech on Feb. 5, 2021. Image by Zachary Thomas

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John Fields

John Fields

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