North Texas Daily

Recap: Men’s basketball locks down Louisiana Tech in close win, splits two game series

Recap: Men’s basketball locks down Louisiana Tech in close win, splits two game series

Recap: Men’s basketball locks down Louisiana Tech in close win, splits two game series
February 07
00:09 2021

After falling to Louisana Tech University 68-63 on Friday night, the men’s basketball team rebounded from their loss to defeat the Bulldogs by a score of 57-55.

One difference from the game one loss was Louisiana Tech’s (15-6, 8-4 C-USA) lack of production from forwards Isaiah Crawford and Kenneth Lofton Jr. While Crawford and Lofton Jr. combined for 41 points in game one, the Mean Green (10-6, 6-2 Conference USA) held the two players to a combined 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting on Saturday.

“Credit to our coaches,” Senior guard JJ Murray said. ” We met this morning and kind of went over what went wrong yesterday. We just made some adjustments on them. They did go to the free throw line 23 times, but we wanted to play without fouling, be physical and just stick to the scouting report on [Lofton and Crawford]. We didn’t think we did a good job of [that] yesterday.”

North Texas started the game on a 26-to-9 run but saw its lead slowly dwindle to a 38-33 advantage at halftime. Louisiana Tech went on a 7-0 run to start the second half and take a two-point lead, but North Texas worked back to a six-point advantage with 4:28 left and held the lead the rest of the way as neither team made a field goal in the final four minutes.

Another difference on Saturday came inside the paint, as the Mean Green outrebounded the Bulldogs 37-to-30 and outscored Louisiana Tech 22-to-18 in the paint. That was in contrast to the Bulldogs holding advantages of 32-28 on the glass and 34-30 in the paint for game one.

After five players recorded more than 20 minutes on Friday, including three who exceeded 30 minutes, head coach Grant McCasland said the team’s increased substitutions in-game made a difference.

“We played more guys and we kind of stretched the minutes out a little bit,” McCasland said. “You got seven guys with more than 20 minutes and nine guys with more than 10. I felt like we just had a more consistent effort. We kind of rode some guys last night and I thought tonight, we were quicker to sub and I thought we had more energy.”

Leading the team in scoring was senior guard James Reese who finished with 12 points, five rebounds and two assists. Two freshmen, guard Rubin Jones and forward Abou Ousmane, were key contributors in the win as well. Playing in a career-high 14 minutes, Ousmane also posted career-highs with five rebounds and three blocks. Jones took a charge with 39 seconds left which helped seal the win and totaled eight points, two assists and two steals.

Ousmane filled in for senior forward Zachary Simmons (three fouls) when he dealt with foul trouble early, giving the Mean Green an inside presence while Simmons was out.

“Abou has got a chance to be special,” McCasland said. “Tonight, he was plus-11 in the plus-minus category. That’s huge for a guy who gets five rebounds and six points, but its his three blocks, he was really walled up defensively. Just played how we know he’s capable of playing.”

With 64 combined fouls between the two games, this series was a physical battle between the Mean Green and Bulldogs. Murray said he and Reese took pride in the games’ physicality.

“It was physical,” Murray said. “Me and Reese, we talked about it, we tried to be the aggressor. We knew this team was gonna be physical, we know they’re top of the conference in fouls drawn, but me and Reese take pride in defense. […] We like being in these types of games.”

UP NEXT: North Texas will travel to Hattiesburg, MS, to face the University of Southern Mississippi in a two-game series on Feb. 12 and 13.

Featured Image: Freshman guard Rubin Jones pushes the basketball full court against Louisiana Tech on Feb. 5, 2021. Image by Zachary Thomas

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John Fields

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