On Friday, North Texas men’s basketball (1-3, 0-0 Conference USA) lost a competitive game to No. 11 ranked West Virginia (5-1, 0-0 Big 12 Conference) by a score of 62-50.
This marks the third loss in a row for the Mean Green — all coming on the road — after dropping matchups with the University of Arkansas (69-54) and Mississippi State University (69-63).
It was a tale of two halves for the Mean Green, who led the game 29-21 at halftime before WVU opened the second half on an 18-0 run to take the lead for good. After shooting 13-22 (59.1 percent) from the field in the first half, North Texas made just six of its 33 second-half shots (18.2 percent) to finish the game with an overall shooting percentage of 34.5.
In fact, after outscoring WVU in the first half by nine points and holding the Mountaineers to 9-of-35 shooting, the Mean Green lost the second half by 20 in giving up 41 points on 53.8 percent from the field, scoring just 21 points themselves.
Head coach Grant McCasland said the team’s offensive struggles in the second half may have had more to do with the team’s defense, however, rather than the offense itself.
“I think our problems, really, are connected with as much what’s going on defensively as it is offensively,” McCasland said. “Maybe we’re thrown off of our confidence and togetherness by some mistakes we’re making defensively. […] There’s just a lot to it in order to win, and right now we’re not putting both sides together.”
Leading North Texas in scoring was senior guard Javion Hamlet with 15 points, his highest-scoring game of the season. Hamlet also added three rebounds and three assists on the day.
Hamlet said it was not so much West Virginia’s defense that led to the poor shooting in the second half, but more just the team not hitting open looks.
“We got great looks, looks that we normally knockdown, we just didn’t knock ’em down,” Hamlet said. “They’re gonna eventually fall, we just gotta get back in the gym and get better.”
Other key contributors for the Mean Green were senior forward Thomas Bell and freshman guard Rubin Jones. Bell tallied 12 points and four rebounds, while Jones added nine points and six rebounds of his own.
One key area in which WVU dominated was the offensive glass, with the Mountaineers grabbing 21 offensive rebounds. Having given up five offensive rebounds to Mississippi Valley State, 12 to Arkansas and 11 to Mississippi State, North Texas allowed its most offensive rebounds to an opponent all season against WVU.
Having previously been an assistant coach at Baylor for five years and playing WVU in the Big 12, McCasland said WVU is always a dominant offensive rebounding team.
“From an offensive rebounding standpoint […] I was in this league for five years, this is the best offensive rebounding program in the country,” McCasland said. “It’s just a good opportunity to see where your physicality is at, and our physicality isn’t where it needs to be.”
With three games currently scheduled for next week, McCasland said the team does not take pride in losing a relatively close game to WVU. He said the team will look to improve with a couple of days of practice before its next game on Tuesday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“We’re just gonna try to teach our team to improve in the little areas that make the biggest difference in winning,” McCasland said. “Which is being tough enough to defensively guard the ball and rebounds, honestly. […] We’ll just keep pushing to do the basics and fundamentals, that’s where our focus is.”
UP NEXT: North Texas men’s basketball is set to return home to face the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m.
Featured Image: Redshirt senior guard Javion Hamlet prepares to pass the ball to a teammate against Western Kentucky on March 1, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas