A strong second half propelled North Texas (9-8, 3-1 Conference USA) to a 81-58 win over Florida Atlantic (11-6, 3-1 C-USA). The Mean Green held their third straight opponent to a season-low scoring output.
Florida Atlantic came into the game averaging 72.2 points per game, just like their game against Florida International. North Texas remained locked in defensively, which produced a big second half from the team.
“When you start stacking stops together and when we started rolling, we were getting transition into ball screens … into movement and they couldn’t really set their defense fast enough,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “We got going downhill, and it’s always gonna be our defense that fuels our offense.”
The game started out being back and forth between both teams before junior guard James Reese drained a 3-point shot to give North Texas a 19-18 lead. Reese followed up with a steal and layup off the fast break. He stole it on the ensuing possession, this time getting fouled and knocking down two free throws. Reese would add another score before Florida Atlantic called a timeout.
It was an impressive run by Reese that sent the crowd to its feet and gave his teammates some added momentum. Reese finished the game with 16 points, a new career-high to go along with seven rebounds and two steals.
“It started with James [Reese] in the first half,” junior guard Javion Hamlet said. “He really picked all of us up because the game was moving really slow, and his defense and him making shots is what really opened it up for us.”
After halftime, the Mean Green outscored their opponent 45-29 to pull away late and secure their second straight win at home.
Hamlet finished with a new career-high in points as well with 20, 12 of which came in the second half. He also racked up six assists to go along with four rebounds.
Redshirt sophomore Umoja Gibson and junior forward Zachary Simmons also made an impact with 12 and 10 points respectively despite the former being in foul trouble most of the game.
These two wins at home are extremely important considering North Texas will face it’s next two opponents on the road, but Hamlet said the team has plenty of things to carry over from the start of the season up to this point.
“I actually think the non-conference really helped us and brought us closer,” Hamlet said. “I feel like we’re well-prepared so when we go on the road to tough places … it’s not going to be as tough because we’ve been through it. We’re playing defense better in the second half, and we weren’t early on in the season, so it just feels like everything’s coming together the later the season goes on.”
Next Up: North Texas will travel to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to take on Southern Miss (4-13, 0-4 C-USA) on Thursday.
Featured Image: Redshirt junior Javion Hamlet dribbles into the lane to finish at the rim against North Carolina A&T on Nov. 19, 2019. Image by Zachary Thomas.