North Texas Daily

Size steps up for men’s basketball as they dispatch of McNeese State

Size steps up for men’s basketball as they dispatch of McNeese State

Size steps up for men’s basketball as they dispatch of McNeese State
December 09
20:23 2017

Since his first practice at North Texas, head coach Grant McCasland has stressed to his big men defense over everything else. It’s something he takes pride in as a coach and while the team and their forwards have been good in stretches, they have yet to put together a full game of quality defense.

Before Saturday night’s win over McNeese State University.

The Mean Green (6-5) held the Cowboys (2-5) to 37.5 percent shooting from the field and forced 20 turnovers as they routed McNeese State 85-47. While the Cowboys scored 47 in 40 minutes, North Texas scored 52 points in the second half alone.

“The keys to the game for us were contesting shots and defensive rebounding,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “[Our defense] was about understanding personnel and then finishing with a rebound.”

On the perimeter, sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge had three steals and six defensive boards in 31 minutes.

On the inside, North Texas only allowed 20 points in the paint and the Cowboys bigs were unable to get clean looks inside. Junior forward Tope Arikawe made the most of his 15 minutes with two blocks and six rebounds while being active with his hands.

Freshman forward Zachary Simmons showed his worth on both ends as he constantly affected shots while scoring 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting, mostly on finishes at the rim.

“At the beginning of the year, they were getting on us about rebounding with two hands, blocking out and scoring,” Simmons said. “[Our coaches] really push us hard in practice and it’s starting to come along and we’re starting to see the results in the game.”

As a result of their defensive activity, North Texas scored 32 points off of the 20 Cowboy turnovers. The catalyst of the Mean Green’s offensive attack was Woolridge who was the primary ball handler.

Woolridge posted 15 points and five assists while controlling the tempo throughout the contest. The team as a whole finished with 17 assists to only 11 turnovers.

“We gave up five offensive rebounds, so we got the ball and started pushing it and that’s how we play,” Woolridge said. “We kept our composure, played at our own pace and we just kept sharing the ball.”

In the first half, North Texas did not allow a single offensive rebound to an aggressive McNeese State team, and the Mean Green ended the game with four players grabbing six or more boards.

All three of the forwards played good minutes on both ends, combining for 28 points.

“They’ve been battling and you can see that they’re getting more comfortable,” McCasland said. “That’s the group where we lack the most experience, but you can start to see those guys gain confidence. If we can keep those guys out of foul trouble and keep their aggressiveness up this team is going to continue to keep getting better.”

The interior defense and rebounding set the tone for the Mean Green on both ends as they handled the Cowboys in a convincing win.

“This game was different because their forwards were on the perimeter and on the block so it gave us a different look [on defense],” McCasland said. “Once we got a feel for it, our physicality on their interior players improved and I was just as proud of their defensive effort as I was offensively.”

Next up: North Texas goes to San Diego to take on University of San Diego Dec. 16.

Featured Image : North Texas sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge (0) drives the lane for a layup against McNeese State. Sara Carpenter

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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