Slow Start Leads To Mean Green Defeat Against Rice
Ryan Woolridge And A.J. Lawson Combined For 52 points
DENTON -- North Texas cut a 21-point deficit down to nine just four minutes into the second half, but a slow start plagued the Mean Green in a 95-80 loss against Rice on Saturday afternoon inside the Super Pit.
Freshman guard AJ Lawson came in off the bench and revitalized North Texas (6-16, 0-10 CUSA), scoring 17 first-half points on 6-of-7 shooting with five free throws. His ability to cut to the basket and draw fouls helped the Mean Green take a 50-39 deficit into halftime, despite the Owls (15-8, 5-5 CUSA) opening the game on a 20-4 scoring run.
"I thought Rice came out and jumped on us early," head coach Tony Benford said. "They hit transition baskets and we didn't do a good job of taking away three-pointers. It was a tough afternoon where we just couldn't slow them down."
Lawson was the game's leading scorer with a career-high 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting. He sank 10 of his 12 free throws and notched seven rebounds. Freshman guard Ryan Woolridge poured in a career-high 21 points and went 5-of-6 from beyond the arc.
"We came back from being down quite a bit after making substitutions and both of our freshman played very well," Benford said. "We didn't get stops when we needed to and there were errors in transition. They made run outs and forced some turnovers and that hurt us. 95 points is too many to give up against those guys."
The Owls, led by Marcus Evans' 18 points and Marcus Jackson's 17 points, had four scorers in double-digits and executed when it mattered most, hitting 25-of-30 free throw attempts.
North Texas gave up a lot of second chance opportunities after Rice won the rebounding battle 46-34. Redshirt junior Egor Koulechov finished with 12 rebounds and Connor Cashaw came away with seven.
Rice only let the lead slip to single digits once early in the second half and led the game wire-to-wire.
The Mean Green got within nine points at 55-46 but Rice responded with a 10-0 run to go back ahead 65-46 with 13:36 remaining.
North Texas ended the game on a 8-0 run to make the final score 95-80 and send the Mean Green on an 11-game losing streak.
North Texas hits the road for a two-game road trip and will face off against the Florida Atlantic Owls on Thursday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. (CT) at the FAU Arena.
Mean Green Quick Hitters
North Texas suffered its first loss against Rice at home
Shane Temara has posted at least six rebounds a game in the last four games. He has started the last fiver games.
Ryan Woolridge scored a career-high 21 points
A.J. Lawson scored a career-high 31 points and hit a career-high 10 free throws
Mean Green scored 37 bench points
Senior guard J-Mychal Reese has started 15 games in a row