Despite a tough start to the second half, North Texas (10-8, 4-1 Conference USA) found a way to close it out on the road against Southern Mississippi (4-14, 0-5 C-USA) by a score of 72-52. This is the Mean Green’s first away win against the Golden Eagles since 1971.
With North Texas leading by eight with 10:07 left in the game, redshirt sophomore guard Umoja Gibson drilled a deep 3-pointer and followed that up with a steal and fast break layup on the ensuing possession. After Gibson’s spark on offense, the Mean Green outscored Southern Mississippi 14-7 to end the game.
This was North Texas’ fourth straight game holding an opponent below their season average and third straight holding an opponent below 60 points.
Junior guard Javion Hamlet credited the team’s defensive intensity for the reason why they were able to turn things around in the second half.
“Our defense. That’s what coach always emphasizes,” Hamlet said. “Playing defense, getting the stops and that’s what we came out and did.”
For North Texas, ball distribution was a factor as well. The team had 20 assists on the night, despite averaging just 13 on the season.
Hamlet was the primary catalyst for the team’s high assist numbers as he recorded his first double-double of the season. The 6-foot-4-inch point guard ended the night with 13 points and dishing out a season-high 10 (7 in the first half) assists with no turnovers.
Head coach Grant McCasland had positive words for the junior guard, mentioning that it’s a huge factor when the team is able to spread the ball effectively.
“Early in the game, I thought [Hamlet] made all the plays,” McCasland said. “When he’s dealing like that and guys are getting good looks, then our team’s fantastic.”
Gibson led all scorers with 17 which included five 3-pointers to go along with three steals. Junior guard James Reese added 13 points as well for the night. This marks his second straight game scoring in double figures.
North Texas is now on a four-game winning streak, something players and coaches aren’t really surprised at by now.
“I knew we would be really good,” Hamlet said. “Like I said before, we played one of the hardest schedules in the country and it helped us going into conference play and the results are coming up.”
Next Up: The Mean Green will stay on the road as they travel to Ruston, Louisiana to take on Louisiana Tech (13-4, 4-1 C-USA) Saturday at 4 p.m. The Mean Green will be looking to win their first game in Ruston, Louisiana since 1952.
Featured Image: Redshirt junior Javion Hamlet keeps the ball away from the other team on Dec. 7, 2019. Image by Ryan Cantrell