North Texas (1-1, 0-0 Conference USA) played its first road matchup of the season against Southeastern Conference foe the University of Arkansas (2-0, 0-0 SEC), losing to the Razorbacks by a score of 69-54.
Coming off a record shooting night against Mississippi Valley State on Thursday, hitting a program-record 21 3-pointers, North Texas made just two 3-pointers against Arkansas. The Mean Green shot 21-58 from the field (36.2 percent) and 2-13 on 3-pointers (15.4 percent), both much lower percentages than in their first contest of the season.
After falling behind 7-0 to start the game, the Mean Green tied with Arkansas several times but never led in the contest. Trailing by 11 at halftime, North Texas gave up nine straight points to open the second half and gave Arkansas its biggest lead of the night. Although the Mean Green reduced the lead to 10 later in the second half, Arkansas made a run of its own to put the game permanently out of reach.
In scoring 12 points on the night, junior forward Terrance Lewis II led the team offensively while senior forward Zachary Simmons added 10 points and seven rebounds of his own. Those two were the only North Texas players to break double figures on the night.
Senior guard Javion Hamlet scored five points for the Mean Green, and head coach Grant McCasland said Arkansas focused on getting the ball out of Hamlet’s hands throughout the game.
“Honestly, I didn’t think we would have the problems that we did, but we did,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “And then we got on our heels and their aggressiveness and the way they continued to trap us and get the ball out of Javion’s hands, […] it makes it difficult for a team of new players to make reads when you’re passive.”
Junior guard Jalen Jackson said Arkansas’ press made the guards play rushed early in the game, but he also said 7-foot-3 Arkansas forward Connor Vanover caused the team problems in the paint throughout the night. A transfer from the University of California who redshirted last season, Vanover grabbed 16 rebounds and had six blocks on the night.
“I would get into the paint, then I would look, I’d be like ‘I don’t know what to do,’” Jackson said. “So I would just take it, dribble it out and see if we could find a different option. But [Vanover], being 7-foot-3 in the paint, that caused a little trouble for us.”
Head coach Grant McCasland shouldered much of the blame for his team’s loss after the game and said he did not prepare them well enough for Arkansas’ pressure.
“We got stalled by their pressure and we were on our heels to start the game,” McCasland said. “They were more aggressive and maintained a level of energy to the way they played the game and it really disrupted our offense and led to turnovers, which led to easy baskets for them and I thought that was the difference. Our turnovers 16 and 20 points off of turnovers [for Arkansas].”
While the rebounding margin was close overall with Arkansas winning it 40-36, McCasland said the team gave up too many offensive rebounds to the Razorbacks and physicality would be a focus for the team going forward.
“Defensively, when you give up 13 offensive rebounds […] to a team that doesn’t need extra help, you can’t give them second shots,” McCasland said. “Some of it is just, they’re a great, athletic team so they’re gonna get their hands on a few basketballs. But we missed some obvious physical plays of boxing out. That has to do, I think, with conditioning and practice. We just need more time of the newer guys specifically getting reps of being physical on box-outs.”
UP NEXT: North Texas is set to return home for a matchup with Texas A&M-Commerce on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.
Featured Image: Head coach Grant McCasland talks to senior forward Thomas Bell during a timeout against Louisiana Tech on Feb. 22, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas