DENTON, Texas - A balanced, steady performance by Florida International overcame a record-setting performance from North Texas freshman guard Loryn Goodwin and sent the Mean Green women to a second-straight home loss, 72-63, Saturday night at the Super Pit.
Goodwin, a true freshman from Houston, had a season-high 26 points, including seven three-point field goals, the second most in a game by a North Texas player. Her season-total of 52 threes is the sixth most in a single season in school history.
But it was FIU's advantages elsewhere that made the difference. The teams each made 47 percent of their field-goal attempts, but FIU's 17 offensive rebounds gave them 16 more shots than the Mean Green. FIU also shot 93 percent from the free-throw line while the Mean Green hit just 45 percent. And while North Texas had three players in double-figure scoring, the Panthers also had three, including Jerica Coley who matched Goodwin with 26 points.
"When we had the lead, we needed to get stops," North Texas coach Mike Petersen said. "If you want to sustain a lead, you have to get stops and we didn't. Then we had a critical stretch where we went turnover-turnover-turnover."
Deep in the second half, with the teams exchanging the lead, FIU took advantage of North Texas turnovers and missed shots to open a 10-point lead at 68-58. North Texas, which had responded to Panther leads earlier in the evening, had no answer this time, their attempts at a rally crippled by poor free-throw shooting.
"We played hard enough, we just weren't good enough," Petersen said. "We didn't make enough plays."
The decision gives FIU a split in the season series with North Texas and puts the Panthers (9-6 in Sun Belt
play, 15-9 overall) a game ahead of North Texas (8-7, 9-15) in the hunt for a top-five seed and first-round bye at the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
The game opened with North Texas shooting 60 percent from the floor and hitting its first three three-point shots, but FIU kept pace with second-chance points and 50-percent shooting. The Panthers had seven offensive rebounds in the first half, and when the Mean Green cooled off midway through the half, FIU took advantage, going on a 10-0 run to open a 22-15 lead. Both were trends that would show up later.
"Their bigs were very good," Petersen said., "We did a poor job guarding the interior tonight."
But Ash'Lynne Evans staunched the bleeding with a pair of offensive rebounds and put-back baskets, and the red-hot Goodwin then sparked a North Texas rally. Goodwin hit her first five shots from three-point range and had 17 points in the first half, drew the Mean Green within one with 1:47 to play, and BreAnna Dawkins put North Texas in front with a conventional three-point play, 32-30.
FIU responded with a three of its own for a 33-32 lead into halftime, but North Texas kept up the aggressive pace in the second half. Dawkins drove inside for a pair of layups and a 42-39 lead, and Goodwyn's sixth three-pointer of the game put the Mean Green up 45-41.
An 8-3 FIU run, however, put the Panthers up 49-48. North Texas misques on offense helped FIU extend the lead, and the Mean Green could not put together a rally in the final minutes.
Alexis Hyder had 13 points and six rebounds for North Texas, and Dawkins had 10 points and five boards.
North Texas goes on the road for its next two games, at Louisiana-Monroe on February 14 and at Troy on February 16.