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Recap: Men’s basketball sustains close loss to Mississippi State

Recap: Men’s basketball sustains close loss to Mississippi State

Recap: Men’s basketball sustains close loss to Mississippi State
December 05
10:27 2020

On Friday, North Texas men’s basketball (1-2, 0-0 Conference USA) lost to Mississippi State University (2-2, 0-0 Southeastern Conference) by a score of 69-63. It was the second consecutive loss for North Texas to an SEC opponent following a 69-54 defeat by Arkansas on Nov. 28.

In the close loss, the difference for Mississippi State was dominating in the lane, scoring 44 points in the paint and recording seven blocks on the night to North Texas’ 22 points in the paint and zero blocks for the game.

Similar to the Mean Green’s showdown with Arkansas, the team got off to a slow start and were down 7-0 early in the first half. In fact, Mississippi State amassed its largest lead at 26-13 with 5:12 to go in the first half, but North Texas rallied to trail by nine at halftime. The Mean Green outscored the Bulldogs 43-40 in the second half, but the run was too little, too late as they ultimately fell six points short.

After an abysmal shooting performance in the first half, with the Mean Green going 8-of-30 (27 percent) from the field and 1-12 (8 percent) on 3-pointers, freshman guard Rubin Jones said the team settled in offensively during the second half, when they went 12-26 (46 percent) overall and made six of 11 (54 percent) 3-point attempts.

“We just settled in,” Jones said. “Early on, we were rushing shots, getting shots early in the clock. The second half, we really ran a few sets, had good looks […] it just really flowed better in the second half.”

Head coach Grant McCasland took blame for the team’s first-half struggles and said he did not help them get in a rhythm early on.

“For our offense, in the first half we were so bad, and that was my fault, I didn’t help us get in a rhythm early,” McCasland said. “That’s usually what happens against really good defensive teams. You finally break it down enough to where you can start getting some better looks. We’re getting there, we’re just not very good right now.”

Jones led the team in scoring with 14 points on 5-of-8 overall and 4-of-5 on 3-pointers. It is the highest-scoring game of the season thus far for the freshman, having scored 10 points against Mississippi Valley State and zero against Arkansas.

McCasland said what helped Jones break out was letting the game come to him more against Mississippi State than he had against Arkansas.

“Tonight, he looked like he let the game come to him a bit more, he got a little bit more comfortable,” McCasland said. ” He rushed it our last game at Arkansas. In this one, he had a little more presence to him. The first half, it took him a minute to get going, but in that second half, he really had a great poise to the way he played the game.”

Another key contributor for the Mean Green was senior forward Zachary Simmons. He ended the night with a double-double, scoring 11 points in addition to 12 rebounds and four assists. Despite the tough loss, he said playing two SEC opponents so far in Arkansas and Mississippi State were good challenges for the team going forward.

“You just gotta be strong, and we do have to stay together,” Simmons said. “We’re gonna have some tough times, things aren’t always gonna go our way, so we just gotta stay together and keep fighting because we gotta get better at the end of the day.”

McCasland said he felt good about how the team fought back throughout the game to keep it close, but they still have plenty to improve on before conference play.

“The game got away from us and it got to 10 a couple times,” McCasland said. “I love the way we fought back and gave ourselves a chance, but it’s just not good enough. One thing it shows you is that we’re not good enough to do what we need to do to win our league right now.”

UP NEXT: Men’s basketball is not scheduled to play for the next 11 days until a home matchup with Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 15.

Featured Image: Senior forward Zachary Simmons attempts to pass the ball out of the post against Louisiana Tech on Feb. 22, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas

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John Fields

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