North Texas travelled up to Chicago for a tough matchup tonight. They struggled and lost 57-49. It was extra physical and if you liked tough defense it was the game for you. I watched a ton of CUSA basketball this weekend and after watching super-terrible defensive teams like Rice and UTSA it was something to watch NT and Loyola challenge everything all game.
You can be proud of the effort and we know from years of watching McCasland’s teams that they will play hard on that end, so it was not all that surprising to see it happen again. Unfortunately, we have seen this team and the offense struggle against physical talent. This season it has been even more of a tricky proposition to get into sets and execute.
Tonight, Loyola-Chicago challenged everything and took away the bread-and-butter stuff NT likes: the post ups to Zach Simmons and the pick-and-roll stuff for Hamlet.
Simmons was getting bullied a bit inside, and the entry passes were tipped, challenged, and when they did get to him they were hard and Simmons bobbled them. That happens when a team is very physical.
Thomas Bell was nice early, but struggled the rest of the way. He finished with just 6 points on 3/4 shooting and fouled out.
NT turned the ball over a ton — Hamlet, Reese, and Simmons had 12 of the 20 total (makes sense as they played the bulk of the minutes and touchtone ball the most).
Loyola got some easy run-outs from misses when NT was down just four in the 2nd half but this was the type of game where 8-points felt like 25.
Next Up: UTSA
As preparation for conference play, this was a good one. Good competition tells you about yourself more than any 30-point win does. Next up is UTSA, which got run out the gym in two games by Rice. They play zero defense so it will be a much different game. Still, Loyola-Chicago got some good looks that they just missed and UTSA has a couple of scorers who will be upset they no-showed on Saturday.
Keaton Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson are two really good players. The UTSA squad NT is facing is not nearly as good as the ones the last two seasons have been. The UTSA offense is a my-turn, your-turn kind of deal that, again, Rice took advantage of. The Runner defense is awful, but the up-and-down pace can throw off North Texas if they aren’t careful.
Best Of The Night
James Reese scored 13 and had an offensive rating of 102. He did not have to carry the burden that Javion Hamlet did, however. He managed 14 points, 3 assists. Reese had four fouls to go with his 4 turnovers. Result: Give it to Hamlet even though it doesn’t really mean anything.
Worst of the Night
Rubin Jones struggled with only 4 points on 2/2 shooting. He was gone most of the night but Zach Simmons played 34 minutes and had an offensive rating of 65. He managed only 6 points while turning the ball over four times.