North Texas barely stole a game against 25th ranked VCU on the road. NT jumped out to an 8-point lead early before getting bullied by the harassing press. VCU went on a big run and led by ten at the half.
The good news was that the Mean Green stuck with it and scraped and clawed back to single digits. They even managed a brief lead late.
The game ended on a series of threes back-and-forth with NT failing to put up a shot on their final two possessions. The first could have put NT up, and the second would have tied.
It is a bitter sweet loss, as the fight and shooting impressed against a good opponent in a hostile environment. Obviously, NT wants to win these and not just come close.
There were some clear improvement areas — NT had trouble finishing inside with the physicality — but the threat of multiple shooters and the various players with ball handling ability meant NT was able to break the press late.
The Rams had a surprisingly good season last year, winning the conference regular season before bowing out of the NCAA tournament in the first round. They are ranked, well-supported and a good test for NT. We can feel good.
As we wrote recently, in this the third season of Grant McCasland’s tenure we should see more of a fully realized vision. There is no Ryan Woolridge — well here at least. He’s at Gonzaga, now — but there are some guys there.
The new names are Thomas Bell, James Reese, and Javion Hamlet and they are trying to replace Woolridge, Mike Miller and Jorden Duffy — all double figure scorers. New faces in new places is the only thing that is consistent in college basketball so we cannot complain.
Tonight, there were contributions across the board so that aspect of the McCasland Way is intact. Thomas Bell’s rebounding was really nice to see early. He helped build the first lead.
There were some shooting hiccups — James Reese went 3-12, 3-9 from deep — but the season is young and shooting and rhythm will come. It’s nice to see the grit and fight in this one.
The schedule sees NT take on one more top-25 opponent this November, so we will learn of this is something we can expect all season or a on-off performance.
So far, you can be excited about the team.