Unlucky in Ruston: NT 65 La Tech 66

A scan of the box score will tell you that North Texas lost this game because they missed free throws — a season-long curse — and that the Bulldogs made theirs when it counted.

That is only part of the game. In close games, it is common for everyone to look at 50/50 plays and wonder if that was the decider. The answer there, is ‘no’ it was not the decider. Basketball, much more than any other sport, is about maximizing the percentages of every given play. Before analytics became much more easier to define the term, coaches have long talked about getting ‘good shots’ and forcing ‘bad’ ones.

They would spend hours on the court and in film session highlighting examples of each. This is all about maximizing percentages. Similarly, the old adages about ‘taking care of the ball’, and ‘making smart decisions’ is all the same thing.

The advanced stats have given shape to ideas that have long existed in this game.

North Texas did not maximize many aspects of their game last night against Tech. There were seven free throw misses (by the way Tech missed 9) but NT was also 10/28 in the first half and 3/12 from three. Missing good shots is a part of the game, but all the misses were not on good shots.

All the possessions were not good ones — there was an AJ Lawson offensive foul on a drive into a double team that had even the commentary team perplexed. There was a pull-up, transition three from Ryan Woolridge. Even that miracle shot from Roosevelt Smart just before the end of the game was a bad possession. No coach — or player — wants a leaning, double-clutch shot from distance to be the game-deciding possession.

The point is more that there are many aspects of this team that need improving at this early stage in the new Mac era. Free throws are a part of it, but there is more beyond this. The nature of this team is that the talent and effort are keeping them in close games. The improvement areas are helping them drop games also.

NT has played six games in conference and five of them have been decided by a total of 8 points.

For Tech’s part, they haven not played well in the league, turned the ball over too much, and their best player was on the court while hurt. That they won this game after blowing a late lead is a mini-miracle.

Next up:

Southern Miss on Saturday at 4pm. TV will be CUSA.TV