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RECAP: Men’s basketball sweeps UTEP after a balanced scoring effort

RECAP: Men’s basketball sweeps UTEP after a balanced scoring effort

RECAP: Men’s basketball sweeps UTEP after a balanced scoring effort
January 16
20:50 2021

Coming off a 30-point win on Friday, North Texas men’s basketball (7-5, 3-1 Conference USA) completed a two-game sweep of Texas-El Paso (6-6, 2-4 C-USA), defeating the Miners by a score of 74-65.

After falling behind 11-2 through just over four minutes of play, North Texas rallied to take the lead on several key baskets from junior forward Terrance Lewis II, who scored seven of the team’s first 11 points.

“I thought Terrance Lewis gave us a huge lift,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “I think he had seven points in a matter of four minutes when we only had four points and got us back in the ball game. Rubin Jones and JJ [Murray] were in both times when we made runs, and both those guys made significant contributions. That’s kinda what we’re looking for is, how do we get nine, 10 guys out there competing.”

Balanced scoring was key for the Mean Green, who had five players score in double figures and were led by 13 points each from senior guard Javion Hamlet and senior forward Zachary Simmons. Key contributions came from some bench players, too, as senior guard JJ Murray finished with a career-high 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, and freshman guard Rubin Jones added 11 points as well.

“I think it just goes to guys staying ready,” Murray said. “We know, with back-to-backs, you can have a good night Friday night and a not so good night Saturday. It just goes to how together we are as a group and whoever’s night it is, we just roll with that.”

To go along with his scoring, Simmons tallied three rebounds, two blocks and four assists on the game. He totaled nine assists in the two games versus UTEP after having a career-high five assists on Friday night and said after the game that getting his teammates involved is always a priority.

McCasland said Simmons’ defense on UTEP’s Bryson Williams, combined with his contributions offensively, made him a key factor in the team’s win.

“Zach Simmons was a rock for us all game long,” McCasland said. “Any time we needed something, we’d put the ball in his hands. He handled it, was tremendous and I thought just his play defensively on Bryson and offensively in handling double teams and ball screens was really the difference in the game.”

The Mean Green went on several runs when McCasland went to smaller lineups consisting of four guards and one forward. McCasland said those small-ball lineups helped spark offensive runs and kept his players fresh as seven appeared in 19 minutes of action or more with only senior guard James Reese exceeding 30 minutes played.

“Playing these back-to-back games, you gotta figure out a way to get your best players on the floor,” McCasland said. “And, how do you keep resting guys but also handle the ball. From a ball-handling standpoint, when the game gets going, it gives you an ability to maybe spread people out and gives guys rest that significantly need it. With the way JJ and Rubin are playing, just tried to get those guys on the floor together and find lineups that can keep the energy up defensively.”

UP NEXT: The Mean Green will travel to Norfolk, Virginia, to take on Old Dominion University (8-4, 4-2 C-USA) on Friday, Jan. 22 in their third two-game series of conference play.

Featured Image: Senior forward Thomas Bell lays the ball up during a game against UTEP on Jan. 16, 2021. Image by Zach Del Bello

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John Fields

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