NT Men Can't Hold Nine-Point Lead In 65-63 Loss
Turnovers Send Mean Green To First Loss Of Season
J-Mychal Reese drives for two of his game-high 16 points (photo by Rick Yeatts)
DENTON - The Mean Green's two-game offensive onslaught of 100-point games was bound to slow eventually. The question was, how would North Texas respond when the scoring was not coming so free and easy.
The Mean Green answered with a strong defensive effort and clutch, hard-earned baskets during a 14-0 second-half run, but could not overcome an onslaught of their own turnovers in a 65-63 loss to Idaho Monday night in the Mean Green Challenge at the Super Pit.
North Texas was unable to make a nine-point second-half lead stand up as the Mean Green committed 22 turnovers which turned into 23 Idaho points.
"We didn't do a good job of managing the lead," said North Texas coach Tony Benford, whose team drops to 2-1 this year and 0-10 all-time against Idaho. "We were trying to make plays, but we can't have that many turnovers. You've got to take care of the ball."
Idaho (3-1) took the lead, 64-63, on a three-point field goal with 1:27 to play. From that point, the Vandals, who made 21 of their first 28 free throws, missed seven of their final eight charity shots, but North Texas could not take advantage, coming up empty on its final four field-goal attempts and two free throws.
After Jeremy Combs led NT to an early lead, the North Texas offense - so unstoppable in rolling up more than 100 points in each of its first two games - struggled against a big, aggressive Idaho defense that came into the game allowing just 60.3 points per game. That defense combined with 88-percent free-throw shooting allowed the Vandals to build an eight-point lead.
But point guard J-Mychal Reese, the highly-touted transfer from Texas A&M, ignited North Texas with drives to the basket and a three-pointer. The Mean Green defense, meanwhile, turned the tables on Idaho, holding the Vandals to 36-percent shooting from the floor, getting three blocks and forcing a pair of turnovers late in the half to send the game to intermission even at 32-32.
Idaho forged a five-point lead with five minutes gone in the second half when North Texas went back in front with a 14-0 run. DeAndre Harris drained a three and Ricky Brice swatted an Idaho shot - one of his three blocks on the night - and followed on the other end with a 15-foot jumper. Two three-pointers from Deckie Johnson, sandwiched around a steal and score by Harris, finished the run and put North Texas up, 51-42.
Reese finished with 16 points for North Texas, matching his career high with the Mean Green, Combs had 14, Johnson had 13 and Harris finished with 10.
Combs had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the fifth double-double of his career.
North Texas had a season-high five shot blocks.
In an entertaining opening game of the Mean Green Challenge, Samford got a three-point field goal with eight seconds left for an 82-79 win over Troy. Samford is now 3-1 this season, while the Trojans are 2-2.
On Tuesday's second day of the round-robin Mean Green Challenge, North Texas will face Samford at 7:30 p.m. at the Super Pit. That game will be preceded by Idaho vs Troy at 5 p.m.