FRISCO — A friend of mine schedule Lasik for this game, and I felt like I should have shceduled some surgery on my own eyes instead of enduring that loss. It was the worst kind of basketball loss, the one where your favorite team is getting open shots but they simply will not fall. McBride went 1-6 from three. Murray went 0-4. Jones went 0-2. Perry went 3-11.
It was rough. Everyone was getting good looks. They are ones they make, they hit every time (seemingly). The pre-game intro video has McBride hitting that super-clutch three vs Western in last year’s championship game. He didn’t do much differently on Friday, but the shots were too strong. He’s in a slump at absolutely the wrong time. At the :50s mark he kissed it off the glass, with NT trailing 36-32 and … it rimmed out. The block on Perry’s shot was less close than this one. It wasn’t their night.
NT only had 36 points, but it wasn’t all Tech’s defense. They made it tough, but nothing harder than anyone else. Ousmane tried his baby hook. It bounced out. He tried to a little touch put back. It rimmed out. Bell attacked and flipped the ball up, it bounced off the backboard and off the front rim. NT shot 6-9 from the free throw line. Against UTEP that was the problem. Here? It was the threes. 4 of 24 on the night (16%) is not winning ball. Add to (or subtract?) and NT went 30% from the two-point field. Credit Kenneth Lofton for not letting Ousmane get position deep, and for bodying him up on the hooks. NT could not convert.
As usual, however, NT defended. Tech won, but only scored 42. They shot 9 of 31 from 2, and 5-18 from three. That latter stat was the difference. Keaston Willis, transfer from Incarnate Word, was the key guy. He was ready to fire when Tech rotated the ball out of doubles and kick outs. He went 4 of 8 in the build up of the lead. NT hit a couple (McBride, Perry) late, that helped the comeback a little. But by then NT was chasing.
Also huge was Cobe Williams and his ability to dribble into pull up jumpers. That midrange game was all the offense Tech could find for stretches, and it was something NT is missing this season. Javion Hamlet lived for clutch midrange pull ups. Perry is great at step-back threes, but no one on this team can find a nice 15-footer off the dribble. I asked Konkol after the game if that midrange was part of the plan. “NT is so good at defending the basket, they always have someone right there, that we talked about getting a foot in the paint and then stopping.”
Rubin Jones took a shot at defending Williams and helped NT get stops. He was locked in, forcing misses and passes that Perry did not. Jones was not as good on the offensive end, with just the 2 points. He had his looks, those corner threes off the catch. They did not drop.
NT peaked in February, and struggled in March and it likely cost them the NCAA Tournament. The UTEP loss last Saturday was a combination of NT errors and a streaking Miners squad. This one was about the offense hitting a funk at the wrong time. The defense battled and everyone hustled. There were mistakes, sure, but that’s the game. Again, NT held Tech to 42 points.
They simply could not score enough.
Next up: NIT