North Texas Daily

RECAP: Men’s basketball rides hot shooting, stout defense to victory over HBU

RECAP: Men’s basketball rides hot shooting, stout defense to victory over HBU

RECAP: Men’s basketball rides hot shooting, stout defense to victory over HBU
December 18
12:44 2020

On Thursday, North Texas men’s basketball (3-3, 0-0 Conference USA) won its second straight game in defeating Houston Baptist University (1-6, 0-0 Southland Conference) by a score of 85-55. The win came two days after the Mean Green defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff 81-56.

The Mean Green rode a dominant first half to victory as they ended the half on a 25-2 run and were up by 29 points at halftime, ultimately winning the game by 30 points. They dominated the first half on both ends by scoring 45 points on 19-of-31 (61.3 percent) shooting and holding HBU to 15 points on 6-of-28 (21.4 percent) from the field.

Head coach Grant McCasland said the team’s defensive efforts fueled their success offensively, particularly in forcing 15 turnovers and scoring 13 points off those turnovers in the first half.

“[The defense] was tremendous,” McCasland said. “Lot of deflections, steals, activity level guarding the ball. Defense always fuels offense and definitely was the case tonight.”

Leading the Mean Green in scoring were senior guards James Reese and Javion Hamlet, who had a combined 37 points on an efficient 15-of-19 shooting (78.9 percent).

Hamlet had 10 points during the team’s dominant first-half run and finished with a team-high 19 points to go along with 10 assists. He said one motivating factor in the team’s strong start was their matchup with Dec. 19 matchup with LSU being canceled due to COVID-19 issues within the Tigers’ program.

“We don’t know how many of these games that we got,” Hamlet said. “Tonight was a big game for us, just us getting better as a team, us coming together and just building that chemistry.”

In holding Houston Baptist to just 15 first half points and 55 points total, North Texas held the Huskies well below their season average. McCasland took pride in the team’s defensive effort in keeping HBU more than 17 points below its average of 72.2 points per game.

“What you’ve gotta be able to do is take people’s best punch and still execute,” McCasland said. “For us to be able to take a team that likes to play fast, who likes to get up shots, and for us to limit them to 15 points in the first half really shows our team’s improving.”

Reese, who finished with 18 points and one steal on the night, said a big part of the team’s hot start offensively was getting out in transition and scoring quickly. The Mean Green were able to play that fast by forcing 15 first-half turnovers and scoring 13 points off of them.

“We had J Ham and Rubin pushing the ball in transition,” Reese said. “Breaking the defense down, just making it easy throwing the ball out. We were able to pick ’em apart with the ball movement.”

In their game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Tuesday, the Mean Green gave up 32 points to the Golden Lions in the first half on 44.8 percent shooting and led by just four at halftime. McCasland said he was pleased with the team’s improved start on both ends — especially on the defensive end — compared to their opening half against Pine Bluff.

“Not only did we make ’em miss, but we made ’em turn the ball over,” McCasland said. “We didn’t start that way against Pine Bluff, we were passive. We challenged our guys to be more aggressive on the ball and be more aggressive in gaps, and it showed.”

One notable milestone on the night was senior forward Zachary Simmons surpassing 900 career points with his first made shot in an eight-point effort. Simmons finished the game at 907 career points which leaves him tied for No. 32 with Terry Bailey on the North Texas all-time scoring list.

UP NEXT: North Texas men’s basketball is set to play its third consecutive home game against LSU-Alexandria on Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. in what is currently the team’s final scheduled non-conference game.

Featured Image: Redshirt senior guard Javion Hamlet drives in the lane against Houston Baptist on Dec. 17, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas

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John Fields

John Fields

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