North Texas dropped a big game vs a rising FAU squad that came in boasting lots of returning guys eager to right perceived wrongs of last year. North Texas is integrating new transfers into a program that has a lot of wins and a habit for filling the trophy case. Tonight was a big game for mid-majordom and was eagerly anticipated by all who consider themselves fans of college hoops.
We were treated to a classic McCasland-coached North Texas game: few possessions, tough defense, clutch offense. FAU’s offense was limited, frustrated, and NT looked to go on the trademark late-second-half run that usually serves as the finishing move. Tylor Perry and company looked like they had FAU in the Sharpshooter but … Abou Ousmane fouled out with under four-minutes. Tylor Perry did not hit the clutch late-clock attempts, and Kai Huntsberry and Jayden Martinez did NOT hit the open, rhythm three-point attempts that were afforded them.
Even Rubin Jones, who played some beautiful defense on Michael Forrest late — forcing a tough shot, blocking the shot, and then drawing a foul — missed the ensuing front end of the one-and-one free throw that would have cut it it to one. The unnerving feeling in the back of every North Texas fan’s mind the last few weeks has been “What if this isn’t a slump but the way it will be all season?” Tonight was a test, the first real test of the hoops squad that had a full complement of players. The result: a C+ offensively, a A- defensively. Oh, and mark in the Loss column.
The referees called a bad game, with lots of questionable calls everywhere. They didn’t lose the game. The free-throw miss didn’t lose the game. No, it was the collective misses from everyone.
North Texas’ defense harassed and bullied the FAU squad, forcing a terrible shooting night from them. NT made the Owls play at the Denton pace, but could not come up with the shots necessary. Tylor Perry came up cramping late, and Ousmane had already fouled out. We saw Kai Huntsberry drive and kick to Matt Stone, who pump-faked a pass to everyone and then threw it over to Rubin Jones. He drove into traffic and lost the ball. That also didn’t lose the game, but it was the kind of offense we had seen a lot.
There is a difference between playing deliberately and then getting a late-clock bucket from Tylor Perry and what we are seeing: lots of ugly offense and Perry bailing NT out with a late-clock bucket.
Tyree Eady, Kai Hunstberry, Jayden Martinez, and Rubin Jones all missed clutch attempts. None of those are worthy of blame but something has to be done about the shooting from this squad. Is it a change in playing time? A tweak to the rotations? A variation in philosophy? Is it just about powering through it? I don’t know the answer. NT bricked it up out there, and while that happens here and there, it has happened a ton with this squad to the point where we are a little more than concerned.
Meanwhile NT lost a big game to an opponent that came in looking to build confidence against at top tier league team. Last year in Boca Raton it was FAU that missed a bunch of clutch opportunities while NT was on a win streak. NT escaped, and FAU reeled a bit. NT has FIU (non-good) before a big time trip to the Midwest to take on Western (lost to Rice tonight) and Middle (lost to CLT tonight).
It is nowhere near panic time, but it is definitely “sit up and lean forward in your chair” time.