DENTON, Texas - A furious second-half rally sent Arizona past the North Texas women Wednesday night and denied first-year head coach Mike Petersen his first win of the year at home, 71-66 at the Super Pit.
North Texas built a 17-point halftime lead, but Arizona turned around every first-half trend. Most glaring was the turn-around on the Mean Green's defensive end, where North Texas went from holding Arizona to 17 first-half points to allowing 54 second-half points. The 17 points are the fewest North Texas has allowed in a half this season, and the 54 are the most the Mean Green has given up in a half.
"Losing is losing, it always stinks," Petersen said. "Our defensive effort in the second half was completely unacceptable. We just didn't play hard enough.
"I'm in charge, I'm accountable, and I didn't get that effort out of them," he added.
The Mean Green (1-5) was also out-rebounded in the second half after enjoying a substantial advantage on the boards in the first. Arizona (4-2) had two offensive rebounds in the first half but 12 in the second, propelling the Wildcats to finally overtake North Texas with 2:39 to play. In the final two minutes, the Mean Green committed three turnovers while Arizona scored on five-straight possessions.
"Today we lost a game we had no business losing," Petersen said. "We completely left them off the hook."
Four of the Mean Green's five losses this year have been by five points or less.
North Texas, which has spent the first five games this year overcoming double-digit deficits, got off to another slow start and fell behind 6-0. The Mean Green made just two of their first seven shots, but they turned up the defensive pressure to slow the Wildcats until the North Texas offense found its footing.
But after that initial deficit, North Texas out-hustled Arizona the rest of the half. The Mean Green held a huge rebounding advantage, 23-11, and held the Wildcats to just four points in the final 10:44 of the half. Arizona scored inside early in the game but found that avenue shut off, but at the same time North Texas held the Wildcats to 0-of-8 from three-point range.
The Mean Green offense, meanwhile, got rolling behind Desiree Nelson, who gave North Texas its first lead of the game at 10-9. Laura McCoy then heated up, hitting back-to-back NBA-range three-pointers for a 19-13 lead. Loryn Goodwin added a three on an assist from McCoy for a 24-13 lead to cap an 11-0 run.
McCoy added another three late on her way to an 11-point first half and a 34-17 North Texas halftime lead.
But Arizona took and held the momentum throughout the second half. The Mean Green's lead slowly leaked away, with McCoy and Goodwyn temporarily slowing the bleeding. By the 10:15 mark, the advantage was down to four points at 50-46 before the Wildcats put on their final push in the final three minutes.
Goodwyn led North Texas in scoring with 16 points, while McCoy finished with 14.
The Mean Green's next game is Saturday evening in their Sun Belt Conference opener against Louisiana-Lafayette at the Super Pit. Game time is 5 p.m.