NT Squanders 14-Point Lead, Loses In OT To Southern Miss
Jordan Williams Moves Into 10th Place On NT Career-Scoring List
Jordan Williams moved into 10th place on the NT career-scoring list (photo by Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
DENTON - A North Texas second-half offensive swoon and a massive Southern Miss advantage in offensive rebounds and second-chance points combined to wipe out a 14-point Mean Green lead and hand NT an overtime defeat Saturday night at the Super Pit, 75-71.
The loss to the Golden Eagles, who snapped a nine-game losing streak, comes just two days after the Mean Green's victory Thursday over league-leader Louisiana Tech.
"It's really disappointing," North Texas coach Tony Benford said. "We didn't do a good job in our zone, and they just out-toughed us in the end. You just can't allow second-chance points like that."
The Mean Green led 46-32 with 16 minutes left in the game, but scored just 25 points the rest of the way, hitting one of its last nine shots, while USM rallied behind a 14-3 advantage in second-chance points, made possible by 17 offensive rebounds.
After suffering through six-straight double-digit losses, Southern Miss has been on the cusp of extricating itself from a 37-day losing skid, dropping its last three by a total of just 10 points, and the Golden Eagles fought tenaciously Saturday night to end the drought. Down 14 early in the second half, the Golden Eagles, led by Chip Armelin with a game-high 30 points, clawed their way to within four points during a five-minute stretch in which North Texas went scoreless and turned the ball over five times.
USM drew even at 55-55 with 4:04 left to play, ending a streak of 75:56 over the last two games in which North Texas has led. With the game even at 57-57, Jordan Williams, who led North Texas with 19 points, hit a deep three to put the Mean Green back in front, but the Golden Eagles, after two misses in the final minute at a game-tying three, got a three from Norville Carey - just his fourth three-pointer of the season - with 3.4 seconds to play to force overtime.
In OT, North Texas led 68-67 before Southern Miss went on an 8-0 run to take control for good, as the Mean Green hit three of 12 shots in the extra period.
For the second game in a row, North Texas got off to strong start, hitting seven ot its first 10 shots on its way to a 60-percent first half and forcing five early turnovers on defense to open a seven-point lead. Jeremy Combs, coming off a double-double performance against Louisiana Tech, muscled his way through a double team at the rim to make it an eight-point advantage, 24-16, at the 9:11 mark.
USM closed to within two with five minutes left in the half, but a steal, layup and free throw by Jordan Williams, a pair of NT shot blocks in the 90 seconds, and a Maurice Aniefiok three-pointer at the buzzer pushed the lead back to eight at halftime, 37-29. Aniefiok had a team-high 11 points at intermission.
Combs finished with 17 points for the Mean Green, and Aniefiok had 16.
• Record watch: senior Jordan Williams slipped past Leonard Hopkins (2002-05) for 10th place on the Mean Green's career scoring list. Williams now has 1,341 points. Williams is also in 10th place on the career three-pointers-made list. Williams has 131, just behind ninth-place Chad Elstun (1995-97) with 132, eighth-place Hopkins with 136, and seventh-place Deon Hunter (1986-89) with 138. Williams had two steals Saturday to tie Ricky Roberson (1986-89) in career steals with 102.
• When Southern Miss tied the game at 55-55 with 4:04 to play, it ended a North Texas streak of 75 minutes and 56 seconds in which the Mean Green had led. NT led wire-to-wire against Louisiana Tech.
• This was the second game between NT and USM in the last 25 years. The Golden Eagles won the previous eight-straight meetings.
North Texas closes its three-game homestand on Saturday, Jan. 31, when the Mean Green go for the season sweep of the Rice Owls. Game time is 7 p.m. at the Super Pit.