North Texas Squeaks by Rice 68-65

UNT v Rice

That was kind of a horrible game. Thanks to Tristan Thompson and a successful full-court press, North Texas  squeaked away with a win.

Let’s go stat-cruisin’ shall we? Grab your box-score, ladies and gents and lets begin:

-North Texas shot 39% for the game including a horrible 15% from three-ball land. Tristan Thompson, he of the 26 point night, had all three of makes from beyond the arc.

That stat-line (26 pts 1 reb 1 assist 8-18 FG 3-8 3PT 3 stl) obviously makes him the player of the game. It was the way he got those points — and when — that made all the difference, however. Rice’s little zone was frustrating the offense. Josh White couldn’t find a crease, couldn’t hit a shot and couldn’t find a way to drive and dish either. Tristan was the only one without hesitation. Catch and shoot, baby (Dick Vitale voice). He missed his first two attempts, but –again– he had no hitch. Contrast that with Dominique who caught the ball on one occasion, wanted to pass, and shot only when he realized he was open. When Thompson knocked two in a row and rimmed out a third Rice let up with that zone (at least for a little bit).

Player of the Game, Mr. No-Hesitation

— Asalan Kazemi with 11 points 12 rebounds on 5-11 shooting. Meh. The guy came in averaging 15 a game. The box score says he was more effective than he was. His points came on set plays and put backs. Nothing special. If Rice would have pulled out the win, he might have been credited with some timely rebounds down the stretch but it was an otherwise forgettable double-double.

— Rice 7 three pointers. Really it seemed like more. This stat is more indicative of the long range shooting performance these guys put on. Other than a couple of broken plays where North Texas allowed some easy lay ins, the wide open shots came from distance. Two shots in particular were almost backbreakers. Conner Frizzelle had a 3 ball on the press-break after NT nearly had the steal at mid-court. Killer. That took the life out of the building for a second. The next one on the ensuing possession (I think) was another big shot — that could have been bigger. After swinging the ball around, Rice had a wide-ass-open three but somebody came flying out at him and chased him off the line. Instead of sidestepping and launching, the Rice guy stepped in and knocked down a long two. Still a big shot but a mini-win for the defense to save a point.

— Tamir Jackson with 15 points. Only 15 points. Jackson played some pretty good defense and was quick as shit. Also, he looks old. This guy could get to the basket whenever he wanted. Luckily he didn’t want to very much.

— Kendrick Hogans was money. I expect two things out of post players: rebound and finish consistently. Dude hit that ridiculous fallaway (that he wanted to pass to Odufuwa) that pretty much clinched the game and finished like two poaching efforts earlier in the second half. Sweet. It is stuff like that that opens up the lanes for the guards. Not only do teams have to fear the three-ball but the shot blockers can’t come over without giving up points. Lovely.

What does it all mean?!

Well it was nice to see that UNT could get a win even when they do not play well. Rice has some talent, and has played us close the last few games. Last season that 8-win squad lost by two to us in Houston. Taking in all the factors — so close to Thanksgiving, coming off a beat-down delivered by Kansas, playing an inferior team — it could have very well been a loss.

The combo of Josh and Tristan has thus far proven successful. As much as you would like to see both score their averages in games, its nice to have a second option when one is not feeling it or is being taken out of the game. Speaking of which …

Josh was taken out of the game. The Tech zone did not stifle his driving ability and he was able to shoot over it. Rice capitalized on the slump that everyone outside of Tristan Thompson is in, JW included. He could not or would not get into the lane consistently.

Josh White

The experience factor kicked in. In the mini-preview I mentioned this:

Rice has some young talent and is looking to break through this year. That kind of matchup can be dangerous if North Texas underestimates them, but you can look for North Texas to out-experience them. What does that mean? Well, an experienced team won’t turn the ball over easily, takes good shots, and won’t get rattled in crunch time.

That was pretty evident late in the game when North Texas was putting on the 1-2-1-1 press. Although Rice got some good looks and broke it a couple of times, the turn the ball over and took bad shots which allowed us to make up the five point lead they had with six minutes left.

That leads to me to the last box-score point: the free throws. UNT went 21-28 from the line. Rice took eight foul shots. NT was more aggressive and took the ball inside way more. The rest of the shots were late, seal-the-game up shots which were huge. Shannon Shorter in particular made ’em when it counted.

Pictured: Making ’em when they count
Also making ’em when the count