USF Holds On To Beat North Texas in CBI Tournament Final Game 1: 72-62

We have to use a different set of sports fan skills in (over)reacting to the game one loss last night. Typically college sports is all about the singular moment of a handful of games. One shining moment, etc. The CBI’s unusual three-game final series is unique in this regard. I like it, as it spreads the drama and entertainment. Anything can happen in a game, but over a series of games the better team usually prevails. I do not have the data to tell you anything about a three-game series, but I do prefer it in this context. We can be patient. North Texas is still the better team even if the first half of last night’s game looked otherwise.

USF was favored last night so losing to the Dons was not completely unexpected, but opening the game by missing everything and defending no one was. The Mean Green had a few open looks and missed those. They had a few contested looks, and missed those. Meanwhile, the USF and Ferrari were stroking jumpers with only casual resistance.

The Dons made 12 threes in the first half but went only 1-12 for most of the second (before hitting one or two to close things out in the final minute). NT scored 30 and 32 points in the first and second halves, while the Dons had 46 and 26. There was a comeback as North Texas looked like the better, more athletic team in the second half and USF started missing. Our guys scrambled, turned the ball over too much, and could not score at the kind of clip needed to make it all the way back. There were missed layups and missed free throws and our best shooters were off.

For all the praise we deservedly gave the Mean Green squad this tournament, this team is far from complete. Still, there was plenty to like in that loss. The players played hard, if not well. They got back in the game, and did not give up.

The series is back in Denton and this is now a must-win elimination game. The urgency that has been in every tournament game since first round of the CUSA Tournament is back. That will help, but focus on defense and the confidence that comes with making open shots will help more.

Observations

  • USF prepared for Ryan Woolridge by not trying to outrace him, and simply meeting him at the rim. Zach Simmons should continue to get all of the rebounds, but North Texas only got 51% of the total rebounds. USF kept a few important possessions alive with big offensive boards that killed the rally.
  • The announcers are clearly 3rd string and we cannot complain too loudly. Still, it will get a bit irritating hearing them clearly repeat just-learned knowledge so inartfully this week. Also I hate car puns.
  • Ryan Woolridge did not have one of his better games and the entire team looked off because of it. He is so important to what this team does, because of his vision, ball handling, and speed.
  • Jorden Duffy took a couple of awful shots in this one. A comeback has to increase risk-taking but that usually means taking the first good shot available and not the first shot.

Next for North Texas

North Texas is at home on Wednesday. Game 2 is obviously hugely important and the crowd should be loud. USF is good, but I think NT is a little bit better athletically and that showed in the second half. NT won that by six and only ran out of time. It is silly to say, but that is why you do not let first half leads get out of hand. NT was down 12 and suddenly the half ended at 16.