UNT takes on UAB in a battle that has lost some of its luster

As the college basketball season began a few weeks ago, Saturday’s game between North Texas and the UAB was set for an epic clash in the Conference USA.

It’s still an important game for both teams, but there’s no denying that there’s a bit less appeal when it comes to a showdown between what was expected to be two of the two teams in the league.

UNT (15-5) has some impressive wins this season, including a victory over San Jose State, but has already lost more conference games since 6-3 than in all of last season. A year ago, Mean Green won the US Championship 16-2 when they won the US regular season title.

UAB won the conference tournament last year and was a heavy favorite to win the C-USA regular season this year. The Blazers (13-6, 4-4) have so far failed to live up to expectations and have lost four of their last five games, including a 74-73 loss to Middle Tennessee on Monday.

UNT also enters Saturday’s game after a disappointing loss. The Mean Green struggled late in the second half against Rice on Thursday and lost 72-60.

“We will keep our heads up,” UNT guard Tyree Eady said. “It is unacceptable to go out and play like we do. It’s a long season. We will go out and play hard on Saturday. It’s another big game for us.”

UNT relied on their defensive prowess under coach Grant McCasland. He was especially disappointed with how Rice was able to impose her will, locking UNT’s five-game winning streak in the series.

The Owls finished with a 32-20 paint lead and rebounded UNT 31-29. Rice is known for his ability to shoot from behind the arc and was ranked second in the C-USA rankings, averaging 9.2 shots from three-point range per game.

The Owls scored just seven triples in their win over UNT and made three of them.

“We showed a lack of composure tonight in a game where we needed to be physically stronger,” McCasland said. “We were not. This is where we will focus our attention. How can we get an advantage in the way we play so we can get balls and be a more physical team?”

Achieving this goal can be tricky against UAB. The Blazers are one of the most physically gifted teams in C-USA, with a 6-foot-11 center Trey Jemison.

UAB was dependent on transfer guard Jemison and LSU Eric Gaines, while Jordan Walker was recovering from an ankle injury. Walker, averaging 23.8 points per game, hasn’t played since the WAB lost to Western Kentucky on Jan. 11.

The matchup between Walker and UNT guard Tylor Perry, averaging 17.7 points per game, was expected to be one of the most intriguing in C-USA this season.

This match may still be in play when UNT and UAB meet on Saturday. Seeing both on the floor would add to the intrigue of a game that has lost some of its luster over the past few weeks.

UNT women aim to bounce back in home game

The UNT women’s basketball team was on a roll ahead of the Rice game on Thursday after winning back-to-back games.

The Mean Green (6-12, 3-5) will try to regain the form they showed in those games when they take on UAB in the 2pm Super Pit game.

On Thursday, UNT’s winning streak ended with an 81–74 loss to the Owls.

The Angry Green bounced back from a 13-point half-time deficit and twice missed by two points in the second half, only to see Rice respond and pull away.

Quincy Noble led the UNT with 20 points and Jordyn Carter added a record 15 points.

UAB (9-8) leads 1-7 in C-USA and has lost four games in a row.

BRETT VITO can be contacted at 940-566-6870 and on Twitter at @brettvito.

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