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Recap: Men’s basketball falls to the Blazers’ dominant defense on cold shooting night

Recap: Men’s basketball falls to the Blazers’ dominant defense on cold shooting night

Recap: Men’s basketball falls to the Blazers’ dominant defense on cold shooting night
March 05
23:54 2021

With a chance to secure the No. 1 slot in the West division by sweeping the University of Alabama-Birmingham, the men’s basketball team fell flat on Friday and lost to the Blazers by a score of 65-51.

In falling to UAB (20-6, C-USA 12-5), North Texas (13-8, C-USA 9-4) lost its opportunity to secure the No. 1 slot in the C-USA West division and fell to No. 3. Now, the Mean Green will need to defeat the Blazers on Saturday to regain the No. 2 position in the West, while a second loss to the Blazers would keep the Mean Green at No. 3 heading into the C-USA tournament.

“I look at it like we’ve got an opportunity to put ourselves in the best position,” Head coach Grant McCasland said. “I told our guys that in the locker room. What you wanna do is win the conference championship. We’re not able to do that at this point on our side, so now we put ourselves in the best position to win the tournament, which is what we wanted to do anyways.”

Senior guard James Reese achieved a milestone in the loss as he reached 500 points with the Mean Green after putting home an alley-oop dunk with 14:03 remaining in the first half. A seven-point night left the former junior college transfer at 505 points for his North Texas career at the game’s conclusion.

It was the Blazers’ defense that won the day as they held the Mean Green to 21-of-58 (36.2 percent) from the field, including 4-of-22 (18.2 percent) on 3-pointers. Reese and fellow senior guard Javion Hamlet both struggled shooting the ball, going a combined 10-of-28 from the field and 3-of-14 from deep.

“[We’ve] hit those shots a thousand times, we work on them every day, sometimes it just [does not] go in,” Senior forward Thomas Bell said. “We’re going to hit ’em, so I’m not concerned about that. We just got to come back with a physical mindset and be the tougher team, which is what we preach.”

After a back-and-forth stretch early which saw North Texas lead 22-21 with 6:33 to go in the first half, UAB went on a 12-4 run and led 33-26 at halftime. After the break, UAB stymied an early North Texas run to maintain its lead and slowly built its advantage to a 10-point margin with 5:56 remaining. The Mean Green trailed by 10 or more points the rest of the way as the Blazers combined defensive stops with timely shooting.

The 51-point effort was North Texas’ third-lowest scoring game of the season, behind its 50-point output against then-No. 11 West Virginia University and 49-point showing against Loyola University-Chicago.

Bell was the Mean Green’s most efficient scorer in the loss, posting 12 points and nine rebounds on 5-of-8 (62.5 percent) shooting. Senior forward Zachary Simmons also added 10 points and eight rebounds on 4-of-8 (50 percent) from the field.

Heading into the regular-season finale on Saturday, McCasland said the team is excited for the opportunity to rebound from the loss tomorrow.

“Our focus is on how we get better for this [next] game,” McCasland said. “You don’t get many opportunities to play the team that just beat your tail the next day. I know our guys will be excited to play because, give [UAB] credit, they whipped our tail today and we got to figure out a way to fight tomorrow.”

Up Next: Men’s basketball will have a chance to maintain its hold on the No. 2 seed in the West on Saturday as they face the Blazers in both squads’ final regular-season game.

Featured Image: Redshirt junior guard Javion Hamlet passes the ball to Mean Green teammate Zachary Simmons during a play against University of Alabama-Birmingham on March 5, 2021. Image by Zachary Thomas

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John Fields

John Fields

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