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Recap: Men’s basketball rides hot second half to win over Southern Mississippi

Recap: Men’s basketball rides hot second half to win over Southern Mississippi

Recap: Men’s basketball rides hot second half to win over Southern Mississippi
February 13
01:09 2021

Coming off a 57-55 win over Louisiana Tech University on Feb. 6, North Texas men’s basketball topped the University of Southern Mississippi, defeating the Golden Eagles by a score of 65-49.

Senior guard James Reese went down holding his ankle at the 13:41 mark in the second half, but came back in the game several times afterward and did not seem hindered by the ankle. After the game, Reese said he is still dealing with a tender ankle from the Rice University series but he plans to continue playing through it.

“[Reese]’s so competitive man, he wants to win,” Head coach Grant McCasland said. “He’s as locked in as anybody we’ve ever had on winning games and he’s doing it on the defensive end. […] It is the same ankle, but he didn’t show any concern after the game and he went back in. Sometimes you don’t know the fulscope of it until the next day, but he did go back in the game and he seems fine.”

The Mean Green (11-6, 7-2 Conference USA) never trailed in the game after jumping out to a 14-2 advantage over the first five-plus minutes of the game. Nevertheless, Southern Miss (7-13, 3-10 C-USA) rallied and cut the deficit to three points with 7:53 left in the first half. In committing 11 first-half turnovers, the Mean Green allowed Southern Miss to stay close despite the Golden Eagles shooting 9-of-25 from the field and 1-of-8 from deep for the half.

After going into halftime up 28-22, North Texas limited its turnovers in the second half and went on a 14-1 run coming out of the break. After taking a 10-point lead with 18:12 to go in the second half, the Mean Green held a double-digit advantage the rest of the way.

Reese had five points and senior guard Javion Hamlet had four during the team’s 14-1 run as they pulled away for good. Hamlet said the team’s passing fueled their hot start to the second half.

“Just passing to the open man, making the simple play,” Hamlet said. “Coach is always talking about hitting singles, that’s what we were doing.”

Hamlet led the team in scoring with 16 points, with all but two of those coming in the second half. Senior forward Zachary Simmons and freshman forward Abou Ousmane had key contributions as well. Simmons totaled eight points and seven rebounds while Ousmane added five points and seven boards of his own. It was their effort on the glass which McCasland said was particularly key in the win.

“Even if you play good defense, you’ve got to finish it with rebounds,” McCasland said. “That was just a huge deal for us going into the game. They’re not statistically one of the leading offensive rebounding teams, but it was kind of the scrappy balls that we needed to come up with, the loss balls, not just the rebounds, that can ultimately determine maybe a few points each game. […] I thought we won those 50-50 loose ball/rebounding wars consistently.”

Another noteworthy game in C-USA basketball on Friday saw Louisiana Tech (16-6, 9-4 C-USA) defeat University of Alabama-Birmingham (16-3, 9-2 C-USA), the current C-USA West Division leader, by a score of 70-58. A North Texas win on Saturday combined with Louisiana Tech defeating the Blazers once again would vault the Mean Green into first place in the C-USA West Division.

UP NEXT: Men’s basketball will play the second half of their back-to-back in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Feb. 13 with tip-off set for 4 p.m.

Featured Image: Rubin Jones shoots a free throw during a game on Feb. 6, 2021. Image by Zach Del Bello

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John Fields

John Fields

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