North Texas Fights Hard But Drops C-USA Tournament Game To WKU

March 9, 2016

Senior Eric Katenda scored a career-high 22 points in a loss against Western Kentucky in the C-USA Tournament. 

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The North Texas men's basketball team fell behind by 12 at halftime but clawed back coming up short, 84-76, in the second round of the Conference USA Tournament to eighth-seeded WKU Wednesday afternoon at the Legacy Arena.

The Mean Green finish the season with a 12-20 record falling in their first conference tournament game for the second-straight season. The two biggest stats of the game were Western Kentucky out-rebounding North Texas, 42-to-24 on the glass and the Mean Green going 10-for-21 from the foul line.

"I want to give Western Kentucky credit having won four of their last five games," North Texas head coach Tony Benford said. "They are a really good rebounding team and they have guys that can score in the paint. We knew it was going to be a challenge especially with Jeremy not being at 100 percent. With the heart and soul of our team not being there it was really tough but I thought our guys played hard today."

North Texas did finish the game with 10 steals, which is the second highest total this season. The Mean Green only committed a season-low two turnovers in the loss. The team finished 30-for-66 from the field for 45.5 percent. The Hilltoppers almost broke the tournament record in shooting percentage finishing the game at 59.2 percent (The C-USA record is 60.1).

Four players finished in double-figures with senior Eric Katenda leading the team with a new career-high 22 points off nine of 15 from the field. Junior Deckie Johnson added 12 points and classmate Carrington Ward had 10 points off the bench. Freshman Ja'Michael Brown scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds.

In the first half, WKU opened the game with a 6-3 lead off a jumper from Fredrick Edmond with 17:16 left in the half. NT took its first lead with a three pointer from Johnson to make the score 8-6 after a quick 5-0 run.

WKU would regained the lead with a 20-11 run to take a seven point lead off a layup by Chris McNeal with 7:56 left in the first half. With 4:18 on the clock, WKU increased the lead to 12 points at 33-21 off a layup by Ben Lawson.

North Texas cut the lead to 10 points off a steal and layup from Ward with 2:40 remaining in the half. Reese would finish the half with a driving layup to give WKU a 40-to-28 advantage at halftime. Katenda kept NT in the game with 13 first half points (six of 12 from the floor).

In the second half, both teams came out firing as Katenda made a nifty layup and was fouled on the play to cut WKU's lead to 11 points at 50-39 with 16:30 left.

The Mean Green got within seven points off a three pointer from Brown to make the score 55-48 with 13:07 remaining in the game.

The Hilltoppers went on a game-changing 12-2 run to open up a 17-point lead at 67-50 with under 10 minutes to play.

North Texas could have packed it up but continued to battle going on a 15-7 run capped by a layup from Katenda to make the score 74-65 with 4:18 on the clock.

With less than a minute left, North Texas used a three pointer from Johnson, a three pointer from Brown and a layup by Ward to inch within six points at 82-76 with 19 seconds left. WKU's Nigel Snipers made two free throws and the Hilltoppers would hold on to a 84-76 victory.

Mean Green Quick Hits
-Senior Eric Katenda set a career high with 22 points in his final game at North Texas
-Sophomore Jeremy Combs started the game but only played two minutes due to an injury
-Junior Deckie Johnson scored in double figures for the 24th time this season
-Johnson finished with 73 three pointers, fourth-best in school history for a single season
-Junior Carrington Ward finished with 10 points, scoring 10 points or more five times and set a new career high with four steals
-Freshman Ja'Michael Brown scored in double figures for the 14th time this season



North Texas Mean Green