Johnson Ignites North Texas Men To Comeback Victory
Deckie Johnson Sparks 17-6 Run To Open Second Half Against Louisiana Tech
DENTON - The Deckie Johnson show is back.
Johnson, whose scoring has been so integral to the North Texas offense this year but has struggled in the last four games, exploded in the second half Saturday afternoon, single-handedly erasing a double-digit deficit with long range three-point field goals against a seemingly defenseless Louisiana Tech.
When the rest of the NT offense chimed in and the Mean Green defense forced 12 second-half Bulldog turnovers, North Texas forged a nine-point lead, then hit 15 of 18 free throws in the closing minutes to secure a stunning 80-69 victory at the Super Pit.
The Bulldogs (17-6 on the year, 6-4 in Conference USA) never trailed in the first half and seemed well in control at halftime. That was before Johnson opened fire.
"Deckie came out of his slump," North Texas coach Tony Benford said. "He did a tremendous job."
Johnson, who had just two points at halftime, scored 15 points in a 17-6 Mean Green run to open the second half. The junior guard finished with 21 points, punctuated by five three-point field goals. It was a Johnson four-point play that put NT (9-14, 4-6) on top for the first time at 47-46, and another Johnson three that solidified the lead that the Mean Green never relinquished.
"That turned the game," Benford said. "He hit that first one and it just opened up."
"I hit my first shot and just started to feel it," Johnson said.
When Tech focused its defensive attention on Johnson, NT went inside to Eric Katenda and Jeremy Combs, who each had 16 points and were a combined 12 of 18 at the free-throw line. Katenda also blocked three shots to ignite the Mean Green defensive effort that held Louisiana Tech to just two three-pointers and seven points below their season scoring average.
"We've been giving up too many points," Benford said. "But our guys made a committment defensively, zone and man. We closed out the three-point shooters and got back in transition. I was really proud of the effort."
North Texas struggled early with turnovers, but the defense prevented the Bulldogs from taking full advantage, holding Louisiana Tech to a 1-of-10 shooting streak. Eight points from Combs and a long three-pointer from J-Mychal Reese kept the Mean Green within one, 20-19, midway through the first half. But Louisiana Tech's 15-9 advantage in free throws helped the Bulldogs to 40-30 lead at halftime.
• Jeremy Combs fell one rebound short of his 11th double-double of the season.
• Rickey Brice, Jr., had seven points in the first half, a career-best for a first half, but picked up a third foul late in the half.
• With Dave Barnett handling television play-by-play, George Dunham, the former Voice of the Mean Green, made a guest appearance on the Mean Green Radio Network, handling color commentary alongside long-time partner Hank Dickenson.
North Texas embarks on a two-game east-coast road swing against Old Dominion on Thursday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m,, and against Charlotte on Saturday, Feb. 13, at 3 p.m.