DENTON, Texas - Behind a suffocating defense that held South Alabama to 25 percent shooting for the game, North Texas rolled to a 67-47 victory Saturday night at the Super Pit, extending its win streak to four and maintaining its hold on first place in the Sun Belt's West Division.
North Texas (6-10 on the year, 5-2 in Sun Belt play) never trailed and was in command throughout, building an 18-point halftime lead. But whereas some previous halftime leads have evaporated on the Mean Green in the second half this season, Saturday night North Texas kept its foot on the gas and ran its lead to 36 points midway through the second half.
"We did what we do," North Texas coach Mike Petersen said. "We're going to press, we're going to play zone, we're going to trap. That's who we are. We're going to mess with you, and tonight we really messed with them."
The Mean Green win streak - against Sun Belt opponents - is the longest for North Texas since a five-game streak in 2007-08, and the second straight win against a foe with a winning record. South Alabama (10-7, 3-5) had won three of its last four games coming into Saturday's game.
"I'm a big believer in confidence," Petersen said. "I'm not a believer in swagger. Confidence is earned, and we're starting to play like a team that deserves to be in first place."
The Mean Green's offense was balanced, led by 16 points from BreAnna Dawkins and 15 from Laura McCoy. Sara Stanley, Alexis Hyder and Loryn Goodwin each added nine. And while South Alabama was struggling from the three-point line, hitting just four of 28 of its attempts, North Texas was an efficient nine of 15 from the arc, paced by Goodwin and Dawkins who each made good on three of four three-point attempts.
North Texas seized control of the game in the opening minutes, forcing a pair of South Alabama turnovers in the Jaguars' first four possessions while hitting four of its first six shots to open a 9-0 lead. South Alabama drew within a point at 9-8 before the Mean Green went on a 13-2 run in the middle of the half, then finished the first 20 minutes with a 10-3 run.
McCoy, coming off her six-of-seven three-point shooting night against Arkansas-Little Rock, was covered closely around the three-point line by South Alabama but drilled a three at the first-half buzzer for a 35-17 lead. Though denied the three-point shot most of the half, McCoy scored on drives and fast-breaks to lead the scoring with 13 points, while Dawkins, held to two points in Wednesday's win over UALR, had 10 points in the half, including two of three from three-point range.
The North Texas defense, meanwhile, held South Alabama to 17 points on 19.4 percent shooting, shutting down the Jaguars inside game and forcing them the rely on three-point shooting, but USA made just two of 17 attempts in the half.
Any hopes for a South Alabama comeback died quickly in the second half, as North Texas threw a 12-3 scoring run at the Jaguars for a 47-20 lead just four minutes into the half.
The Mean Green's next four games are against teams with a combined record of 19-10 in Sun Belt play. They play Florida International (10-6, 4-3) and Florida Atlantic (8-7, 5-2) on January 17 and 19, respectively, in Florida, before returning home to face Middle Tennessee (11-5, 6-1) on January 24 and UALR (11-5, 4-4) on January 26.