Johnson's Career Night Sparks Mean Green To 78-60 Win
North Texas Snaps Seven-Game Losing Streak
Deckie Johnson had 15 points in the first half to spark North Texas Monday night. (photo by Rick Yeatts)
DENTON - Behind Deckie Johnson's career-high 17 points and the team's 73-percent free-throw shooting, North Texas played its most complete game of the year to emphatically put an end to a seven-game losing streak with a dominant 78-60 win over Nicholls Monday night at the Super Pit.
North Texas controlled every aspect of the game. The Mean Green out-rebounded Nicholls and their pair of seven-foot centers, 45-32, had a 23-11 advantage in points off turnovers, and got five shot blocks and limited the Colonels to 42-percent shooting from the floor, including holding Nicholls' leading scorer Ja'Dante' Frye, who came in averaging 20 points per game, scoreless in the first half and to 11 points for the night.
"I was pleased with the effort," North Texas coach Tony Benford said. "I thought we took care of the ball, we rebounded well, and we got contributions from a lot of guys."
Offensively, nine Mean Green players scored, led by Johnson, who had 15 points in the first half before leaving in the second half after being knocked to the floor in a scrum for a loose ball.
"Deckie's a shooter," Benford said. "I told him, I believe in you and your teammates believe in you, you've got to keep shooting."
Jeremy Combs (19 points), J-Mychal Reese (14) and Eric Katenda (11) also scored in double figures for North Texas, which improved to 3-7 on the year. Perhaps most notable, however, was the performance at the free-throw line, where NT was good on 22 of 30 after making less than 50 percent from the line in the last three games.
"We've been working on free-throw shooting," Benford said. "We've tried everything. We stepped up tonight. We have pretty good technique, its just about confidence."
The Mean Green jumped on top in the opening six minutes with a 9-0 run, then took control of the game with an 8-0 run midway through the first half, led by Johnson with 15 points and Combs with 11 - including an alley-oop dunk on a pass from Reese - as North Texas built a 19-point lead. The Mean Green defense permitted Nicholls to hit just 28.6 percent of its first-half field-goal attempts.
The Colonels (3-5) never threatened in the second half.
• North Texas' freshmen big men - 7-1 center Ricky Brice, Jr., and 6-8 forward Khalil Fuller - faced off with a pair of seven-footers for Nicholls: massive 300-pound graduate student Kyle Caudill and much leaner 200-pound junior Liam Thomas. The Mean Green duo held their own as North Texas out-rebounded Nicholls, 45-32.
• Deckie Johnson had 15 points in the first half, just one point off his season-high for an entire game. Johnson finished with 17.
• Combs snapped a personal four-game streak of being held under double figures with 19 points. He also had eight rebounds and a pair of shot blocks.
• J-Mychal Reese had his eighth-straight game in double figures with 14 points.
North Texas hosts Mississippi Valley State on Thursday, Dec. 17, at 11:30 a.m. at the Super Pit.