Mike Petersen knew installing a new system at North Texas would be a process that would take time in his first season with the Mean Green.
UNT showed signs of progress right off the bat in its season opener against Texas State. The Mean Green played well offensively and pushed the ball successfully at times.
An 88-83 loss to the Bobcats showed there is still a part of Petersen’s formula UNT needs to add to the equation — playing well on the defensive end of the floor.
The Mean Green gave up good look after good look from beyond the arc and saw TSU (2-0) cash in while hitting nine 3-pointers, not to mention several other easy looks.
Those mistakes left UNT something to work on following a night Petersen and his players also saw a lot they could build on.
“We did some things decent on offense tonight, but the trick to playing this way is that you have to play fast on offense and then guard,” Petersen said. “I thought tonight we had half of that equation. We didn’t have the other half at all.”
That was probably the toughest part of the game for UNT to take.
When it came down to the closing moments of the game — after battling back from a 16-point second-half deficit — the Mean Green needed to score maybe just one more time.
Scoring was what UNT did well, but it couldn’t come up with the key basket late.
The Mean Green was within one point three times in the final three minutes, but couldn’t grab the lead and turn the tide.
Braylah Blakely had a chance to tie the game with 2:55 left, but hit only one of two free throws, leaving UNT down 81-80.
Hannah Christian also had a chance to tie the game with 1:22 remaining with a pair of free throws and also went 1 for 2.
UNT trailed 82-81 after Christian missed her first free throw and then hit the second.
The Mean Green forced a jump ball with 1:01 left, giving UNT a chance to take the lead.
Christian missed a layup.
“I got a pretty good look,” Christian said. “I just didn’t finish it.”
Ashley Ezeh hit a jumper for the Bobcats to push Texas State’s lead back to 84-81.
BreAnna Dawkins answered with a layup for UNT, which didn’t score the rest of the way and watched Texas State ice the game from the line.
UNT’s inability to get over the hump late spoiled a solid debut for freshman Alexis Hyder in addition to Petersen’s first game as the Mean Green’s head coach.
Hyder finished with a double-double that included 18 points and 11 rebounds. Blakely added 16 points and Dawkins 14.
Diamond Ford led the Bobcats with a game-high 23 points.
“I did OK, but I feel like there is a lot of improvement I have to make,” Hyder said. “I need to hit the boards more, get up and down the floor more and communicate better on the defensive end.”
UNT seemed to get a better handle on what it wanted to do as a team after trailing by as many as 14 in the first half.
The Mean Green struggled defensively before the break when Texas State hit eight 3s.
Three of those shots from behind the arc came during an early 19-2 run that put the Bobcats up 21-7.
UNT got on track behind Blakely, who hit all six of her shots while scoring 13 points in the first half.
Sara Stanley hit a pair of free throws that pulled UNT to within 35-30 late in the first half.
Texas State answered with its final three 3s of the half, including a bank shot from just beyond halfcourt by Ford that put the Bobcats up 45-37 at halftime.
The Mean Green pulled to within 45-40 on a Hyder layup, but quickly fell behind by double figures again. Ayriel Anderson hit a jumper to put TSU up 60-44.
UNT crawled back into the game but couldn’t complete the comeback in its debut under Petersen.
“We figured out what we need to work on,” UNT guard Laura McCoy said. “Defensively, we struggled. We got back into our zone and were not closing on shooters. When they knock down nine threes, it’s hard to compete.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Texas State 88, North Texas 83
TEXAS STATE (2-0) — Peoples 4-6 1-1 9, Ezeh 4-11 5-6 13, Martin 2-4 4-4 10, Ford 9-18 1-1 23, Baugus 6-12 4-5 17, Anderson 3-6 0-0 6, Passino 0-0 3-3 3, McGilbra 0-1 1-2 1, Burns 2-7 0-0 6. Totals 30-65 19-22 88.
NORTH TEXAS (0-1) — Evans 1-4 1-2 3, Stanley 1-7 4-4 6, McCoy 2-5 0-0 5, Dawkins 4-12 6-6 14, Nelson 2-5 2-3 6, Christian 2-10 3-4 7, Blakely 7-13 4-5 18, Goodwin 3-9 0-0 8. Totals 29-76 22-27 83.
Halftime — TSU 45-37. 3-point goals — TSU 9-23 (Martin 2-3, Ford 4-9, Baugus 1-2, Anderson 0-2, McGilbra 0-1, Burns 2-6), UNT 3-19 (Evans 0-1, Stanley 0-1, McCoy 1-3, Dawkins 0-1, Nelson 0-2, Christian 0-4, Hyder 0-1, Goodwin 2-6). Fouled out — Blakely. Rebounds — TSU 40 (Baugus 10), UNT 47 (Hyder 11). Assists — TSU 11 (Martin, Anderson 4), UNT 9 (Christian 5). Total fouls — TSU 20, UNT 20. A – 506.