North Texas Unable To Finish In 74-72 Loss To Samford

Nov. 24, 2015

Sophomore Jeremy Combs led the team with 18 points and nine rebounds (Photo by Rick Yeatts)

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DENTON -- Sophomore forward Jeremy Combs scored in double figures for the fourth time in as many games, finishing with a team-leading 18 points and nine rebounds, but Samford (4-1) made the key plays down the stretch for a 74-72 win over North Texas (2-2) on Tuesday night in the Mean Green Challenge at the Super Pit.

Playing on his 20th birthday, Combs was one rebound shy of his second straight double-double and what would have been his third double-double of the season. He did most of his damage from the free-throw line, where he was 12-of-16 on the night. He was joined in double figures by junior guards J-Mychal Reese and Deckie Johnson, who finished with 12 points and 11 points, respectively.

Samford had three players finish in double figures, led by guard Darius Jones-Gibson, who finished with a game-high 23 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the floor and 12-of-15 shooting from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs took advantage of turnovers, scoring 15 points off 15 North Texas turnovers, and second-chance opportunities, outscoring the Mean Green by an 11-3 margin in second-chance points.

"I'm really disappointed that we didn't get the W, but I give Samford credit," head coach Tony Benford said. "They have a solid team and they did a good job of extending their defense throughout the game. They did a good job in their zone of keeping us out in front. We were a little sluggish in the first half, but in the second half, we came out and played with great effort. We got the lead. We went small-ball and tried to push the tempo and get more aggressive. It got us in the game and it gave us a lead, but when you go small, you give up rebounds and stuff like that."

In a first half that featured five ties and three lead changes, Samford used runs of 7-0 and 9-2 to take a 37-30 lead into halftime. The Bulldogs grabbed a 20-19 lead as part of the 7-0 run, and they led the rest of the half. Jones-Gibson and Christen Cunningham, who finished with 11 points, combined for 25 of their 37 first-half points.

Sparked by the hustle and effort of Combs and Holston, North Texas went on a 15-0 run, regaining a 49-48 lead with 12:36 left on a transition layup by Holston. Combs grabbed two offensive rebounds and three Defensive rebounds, blocked a shot and made each of his four free-throw attempts as part of the run.

"He was huge," Benford said. "Jeremy is going to give you everything that he has. He played with great effort, like he does every night. I'm disappointed that we couldn't pull it out on his birthday. He played hard and he battled hard against a lot of bigger guys, like he always does. He did a good job, along with the other guys, of helping us get back in the game."

Down as many as seven after the 15-0 North Texas run, Samford battled back with a 6-0 run of their own to pull within one at 57-56. The Bulldogs then completed the comeback with a 3-point field goal by Jones-Gibson, giving them a 63-62 lead with 5:43 left.

North Texas came back and tied the game at 66-66 on a lay-up by Reese with 2:43 left, before Samford regained the lead for good, 68-66, on a jumper by Jones-Gibson with 2:25 left.

"We didn't do a good job of finishing the game, sort of like last night," Benford said. "When you get the lead, you have to finish the game, and we didn't do a good job of finishing the game. When you get a lead like that, you have to come down and have a solid possession. We had a couple of turnovers on offense and then we fouled on defense. You can't do that when you get a lead and when you're trying to close a team out. We just didn't do a good job. We have to learn how to finish games."

Quick Hits

- North Texas started the same starting five -- J-Mychal Reese, Deckie Johnson, Allante Holston, Jeremy Combs and Khalil Fuller -- for the fourth time in as many games, posting a 2-2 record during those games
- Jeremy Combs (18 points) and Deckie Johnson (11 points) scored in double figures for the fourth time in as many games, while J-Mychal Reese (12 points) finished in double figures for the third time
- J-Mychal Reese made each of his 14 free throws of the season, before missing his first free-throw attempt against Samford. He is 14-of-15 from the line this season.
- As a team, North Texas shot a season-best 78.8 (26-of-33) percent from the free-throw line
- North Texas was outrebounded (35-32) for the first time this season
- For the second straight game, North Texas' bench was outscored by its opponent's bench (19-18)
- In the first game of Tuesday's Mean Green Challenge action, Idaho defeated Troy by a score 68-63, improving to 2-0 in the tournament and 4-1 on the season.

What's Next

The three-day, round-robin Mean Green Challenge concludes on Wednesday, as Samford plays Idaho at 2 p.m., followed by North Texas playing host to Troy at 4:30 p.m.



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