North Texas Daily

RECAP: Men’s basketball loses defensive battle to Loyola Chicago

RECAP: Men’s basketball loses defensive battle to Loyola Chicago

RECAP: Men’s basketball loses defensive battle to Loyola Chicago
January 02
22:37 2021

On Saturday, North Texas men’s basketball (4-4, 0-0 Conference USA) lost to Loyola University Chicago (7-2, 2-0 Missouri Valley Conference) by a score of 57-49.

On a night when both teams shot below their season averages from the field, one key factor in the Mean Green falling short against the Ramblers was committing 20 turnovers on the night, with Loyola Chicago scoring 17 points off those turnovers.

Having played in a low-scoring, defensive battel with neither team reaching 60 points, head coach Grant McCasland said he loved how his team played defensively in the gritty matchup.

“It was a gritty, tough, physical game,” McCasland said. “When I talked to Porter Moser after the game, he was like ‘Man, that was the toughest rock fight we’ve had in three years.’ Loved our competitiveness defensively, thought we executed the game plan really well. Just didn’t have enough ball movement offensively and we turned the ball over too many times.”

Despite the season-high 20 turnovers, the team was able to stay close with the Ramblers on the back of some stout defense. In holding the Ramblers to 57 points, the Mean Green kept them 23 points below their season average of 80.6 points per game. Although they scored a season-low 49 points offensively, including just 19 in the first half, North Texas’ defense was particularly effective in the first half in holding Loyola Chicago to 22 points on 9-of-25 shooting (36 percent).

“We played really good on defense the first half, got a lot of stops” senior forward Zachary Simmons said. “It was a real grind it out type of game, kind of simulated what our conference games are gonna look like. I feel like it was a good matchup, good test for us and getting us ready.”

Leading the way in scoring for the Mean Green were senior guards Javion Hamlet and James Reese.

Hamlet had a slow start to the game with his two first half points coming on the layup to end the half. He finished the night with 14 points, however, on 5-for-17 shooting.

Reese finished with 13 points, five rebounds and two steals on the night. He shot 5-of-8 from the field and 3-of-6 on 3-pointers, with the team making just one other 3-pointer for four total on the night.

On the other end, the Ramblers were led by a career-high 26 points from senior forward Aher Uguak. The 6-foot-7 forward shot 8-of-12 from the field, went 8-for-11 on free throws and added seven rebounds as well.

Simmons said Uguak and fellow senior forward Cameron Krutwig — who finished with 12 points and six rebounds himself — were both tough to deal with on both ends of the court.

“Krutwig is a very good player,” Simmons said. “Really good with those elbow catches, catches at the top of the keys. [He’s a] good passer, so that kinda gives another dimension to his game. Uguak, he played a really good game. We had a game plan coming out for him. We said we were gonna let him take those shots, and he made ’em, so credit to him, ’cause he knocked ’em down. They were physical down there, just very skilled, and like I said, they know what they’re doing and they do it well.”

With the team’s first conference games currently set for Jan. 8 and 9 against UTSA after the Jan. 1 and 2 matchups with UAB were postponed, McCasland said playing Loyola Chicago was a good test for the team to expose where they have gotten better and still need to improve.

“One is that we can take different game plans and implement ’em,” McCasland said. “I think that was a big plus for us tonight, ’cause we made some changes in our defense that I thought were good and our guys executed it. When teams are doing a great job on Javion, what are we gonna do? How are we gonna mix it up, how are we gonna get different baskets? We’ll look at it and get better and, you know, sometimes you need to play against great teams to get exposed and we were exposed on that end.”

Featured Image: North Texas guard Jalen Jackson dribbles around a defender during a game against LSU-Alexandria on Dec. 22, 2020. Image Zach Del Bello

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John Fields

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