DENTON, Texas - In a showdown for sole possession of first place in the Sun Belt Conference's West Division, the North Texas women had their worst scoring performance of the season and fell to Denver, 50-44.
The Mean Green shot 30 percent for the game, missed all 13 of their three-point shots against Denver's zone defense, and had no player in double figures. Brittney Hudson and Sara Stanley were the North Texas top scorers with eight each.
"We didn't make shots," North Texas coach Karen Aston said. "We played defense as long as we could, but at some point you've got to make shots."
The previous-scoring low for North Texas this season was 47 against Tulane.
"I expected us to make shot shots," Aston said. "We got gun shy after awhile. We gave into half a difficult night."
North Texas (11-9, 4-3 in conference) slips to third place in the West Division, a game back of Denver (13-8, 5-2) and half a game behind idle Arkansas-Little Rock.
North Texas had a 22-16 halftime lead, but Denver put up 10- and nine-point scoring runs in the second half to take command. The Mean Green rallied in the final two minutes, getting as close as five points with 14 seconds to play.
Neither team could develop any offensive consistency in the first half and were left to depend on brief bursts of scoring. The teams were a combined for 32 percent shooting and were 0-9 from three-point range.
Strong rebounding and defense, however, kept North Texas in front most of the half. The Mean Green trailed only once at 6-4, then quickly went ahead and stayed there the remainder of the half, eventually building an eight-point lead. The Mean Green were buoyed by Sara Stanley, Jasmine Godbolt, and Desiree Nelson midway through the half, then rode a six-point burst by Brittney Hudson to a 22-16 halftime lead.
But the Mean Green continued to struggle against the Pioneers' zone defense to start the second half, and Denver seized the opportunity. The Pioneers quickly erased the North Texas lead with a 10-0 run on five-of-five shooting to grab a 26-22 lead.
North Texas regrouped and drew even at 26-26. Denver, however, forced the action for the next first ten minutes of the second half and maintained a lead. The Mean Green got timely buckets by Hudson and Stanley and forced Denver turnovers to stay within two points at 32-30 with 7:46 to play.
Denver took control for good when the Pioneers' Jordan Johnston sank a pair of three pointers, the first threes of the game, then followed with a three-point play on a layup and free throw for a 41-30 lead with 5:14 to play. The Denver lead grew to as much as 15 points before North Texas rallied late.
North Texas will next be on the road to face Louisiana-Lafayette on Wednesday.