North Texas Men's Basketball Falls Short To WKU, 81-76
Mean Green Big Three Combined For 61 Points In Loss
Junior J-Mychal Reese scored a game high 23 points in a loss at home against WKU (photo by Rick Yeatts).
DENTON — The Mean Green big three each scored in double figures, finishing with a combined 61 points, but as a team, North Texas was unable to make enough plays down the stretch and struggled at the free-throw line, falling to the Hilltoppers by a score of 81-76 on Saturday night at the Super Pit.
Junior guard J-Mychal Reese led all scorers with 23 points on an efficient 9-of-16 shooting, including 4-of-9 from 3-point range, and dished out a game-high seven assists. Sophomore forward Jeremy Combs recorded with fourth straight double-double, finishing with 21 points and 12 rebounds, and junior guard Deckie Johnson chipped in with 17 points.
After going 8-of-10 from the free-throw line in the first half, North Texas went just 7-of-16 in the second half, finishing the game with a 57.7 shooting percentage from the line. Western Kentucky, meanwhile, went 22-of-30 from the line, including a 15-of-18 mark in the second half.
“It’s a disappointing loss,” head coach Tony Benford said. “The thing that came back to get us again was free-throw shooting. If you look at the box score, everything kind of lines up, except for free-throw shooting. We have to remedy that. We’re working on free throws. They were 22-of-30, we were 15-of-26, and we were 7-of-16 in the second half. We have to continue to work on our free throws.”
Combs scored each of the first 14 points for the Mean Green as part of a 14-5 run to open the game. During that stretch, he went 5-of-6 from the field and a perfect 4-of-4 from the free-throw line. WKU answered with a 15-2 run of their own, during which North Texas was 0-of-11 from the field and committed four turnovers.
Both teams finished the half hot from the field, as Western Kentucky made each of their last six shots and North Texas made each of their last three shots. However, a made 3-point field goal by WKU’s Nigel Snipes in the closing seconds gave the Hilltoppers a 41-38 lead going into halftime.
Western Kentucky took advantage of four early North Texas turnovers in the second half, taking a 47-42 lead with 16:21 left in the game. North Texas battled back to within two at 53-51, before WKU pushed the lead to 60-51 after a 7-0 run midway through the second half.
After taking the 60-51 lead, Western Kentucky missed each of its next seven shots, as North Texas pulled to within 61-58 with 7:30 left in the game. The Mean Green battled and battled, fighting back to within three at 69-66 after a put-back by Combs with 2:59 left. WKU’s Fredrick Edmond answered with a 3-pointer on the other end to push the lead back to 72-66 with 2:30 left.
Reese hit three big shots in the final two minutes, including two 3-pointers, pulling North Texas to within two on two different occasions, but that was as close as the Mean Green would get, as Western Kentucky went 9-of-10 from the free-throw line over the last 2:04 to close out the win.
“We got behind there in the second half, and we were playing catch-up, and we could never get over the hump in the second half. Our guys played hard, especially coming off the Marshall game. Everybody could really see what Deckie means to this team.”
- Jeremy Combs and J-Mychal Reese have started all 17 games this season
- After missing the previous game against Marshall due to injury, Deckie Johnson returned to the starting lineup for his 16th start of the season
- The Western Kentucky bench outscored the North Texas bench by a margin of 53-7
- North Texas is now 2-7 when shooting under 60 percent from the free-throw line
- Reese scored in double figures for the 15th time in 18 games this season
- Combs scored in double figures for the fifth straight game, his 13th game in double figures this season
- Johnson scored in double figures for the seventh time in eight games
- Combs recorded his fifth 20-point game of the season, and Reese recorded his third such game of the season
- North Texas blocked seven shots, led by a career-high four blocks by freshman Rickey Brice Jr.
The Mean Green will embark on a three-game road swing, starting with a road matchup at Middle Tennessee on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m.