After coming off a 67-64 win over Marshall, last Saturday, North Texas (8-8, 2-1 Conference USA) returned home and beat Florida International (11-5, 2-1 C-USA) on Thursday night with the final score being 74-56. Similarly to their win against the Thundering Herd, the Mean Green were able to hold their opponent below their season scoring average. They accomplished this despite Florida International wielding the highest-scoring offense in C-USA (82.0 points per game).
“I’m really proud of our guys,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “That’s a good team, that’s an aggressive scoring team and to hold them to 56 points says a lot about what we did defensively for 40 minutes.”
Fifty-six points were the lowest Florida International has scored under current head coach Jeremy Ballard. The Panthers’ offense was considered one of the top 10 fastest teams in the nation when it came to offensive tempo. Nevertheless, the Mean Green were able to counter that with a slower pace.
North Texas was led by junior point guard Javion Hamlet as he contributed game-highs of 16 points and five assists. Hamlet is averaging 16.7 points per game since the start of conference play. Redshirt sophomore Umoja Gibson finished second in scoring with 14 points and dished out four assists as well.
Despite scoring eight points, graduate senior forward Deng Geu managed to have an impact on the game. The 6’8 graduate transfer remained active inside the paint, pulling down seven rebounds, five of them being offensive and registering a career-high four blocks.
“I’m gonna try to do what I can to help the team,” Geu said. “It doesn’t always have to be scoring, and everybody was rotating where they needed to be.”
After being down 7-6 early in the first half, North Texas went on a 7-0 run that developed into a 38-26 halftime lead. Going into the half, the Mean Green knew that in order to win, they needed to keep up the intensity on defense.
“Keep playing defense because our defense is what’s going to win us the games and that’s what we did,” Hamlet said. “We know how it feels to let teams come back like the Western Kentucky game. I feel like that was a big lesson on that game and we just came out and followed the game plan while communicating on defense.”
North Texas ultimately managed to seal their second straight conference win by setting up an 18-0 run towards the end of the game. The run was sparked after Hamlet and junior forward Zachary Simmons hooked up for an alley-oop pass at the 12-minute mark in the second half.
North Texas’ bench performance played a significant role in the win as they outscored the Panthers’ bench 28-17. Senior guard Roosevelt Smart and junior forward Thomas Bell led the bench with 10 points apiece on a combined 8-for-11 shooting.
Next Up: North Texas will stay at home as they prepare to take on Florida Atlantic (11-5, 3-0 C-USA) on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Featured Image: Sophomore guard, Umoja Gibson dribbles passed Oklahoma defender to create space for the Mean Green on Dec. 5, 2019. Image by Ryan Cantrell.