North Texas was well on its way to what would have been huge win in a rare home game against a major-conference power Wednesday.
The Mean Green got hot from deep and built a huge lead against Arizona, just the second Pac-12 team to play at the Super Pit.
What unfolded the rest of the way in a 71-66 loss gave more than a few UNT players a bad feeling in the pit of their stomachs.
UNT (1-5) coughed up 54 points in the second half and let its chance for a signature win get away. It was UNT’s third loss to the Wildcats (5-2) in the last three seasons.
“This was the best we have played against them,” UNT junior guard Laura McCoy said. “It’s a bummer for this team and a bummer for the younger girls. They don’t understand how big of a win that would have been.”
What made the loss even harder for UNT to take is that the Mean Green had every opportunity to pull away from a Power Six conference opponent for the second time this season. UNT lost in triple overtime at Alabama earlier this month.
The Mean Green led by as many as 18 points in the second half before Arizona rallied.
The Wildcats went on a late 15-2 run and took the lead on a Davellyn Whyte 3-pointer with 2:39 left.
Alexis Hyder answered with a jumper for UNT, but that only stemmed the tide. Kama Griffitts put Arizona back up with a jumper a short time later.
UNT never recovered.
“We needed to continue to be aggressive,” UNT coach Mike Petersen said. “If we approximated that same level of intensity in the second half, we would be in great shape. You can’t give up 17 points in the first half and 54 in the second half. The start of the second half, they shoved the ball right down our throats.”
Erica Barnes led five Arizona players in double figures with 15 points, but it was Griffitts who did most of the damage, scoring all 14 of her points when the Wildcats took over after the break.
Arizona needed a huge performance in the second half after UNT controlled much of the first half behind McCoy.
The junior hit back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a 12-0 run that put the Mean Green up 24-13.
UNT went 4-for-9 from behind the arc in the first half and took a 34-17 lead into the break. McCoy hit three of her four attempts from deep and had 11 points before halftime.
UNT also dominated on the boards in the first half, finishing with a 23-11 rebounding edge.
Arizona took over in the second half, outrebounding UNT 21-13 and shooting 50 percent from the floor.
“We lost our focus,” UNT guard Loryn Goodwin said. “We came out in the first half and competed. We needed to bring it in the second half, and we didn’t do that at all. We didn’t compete on the boards. We got outrebounded and they shot better than we did.”
Goodwin led UNT with 16 points while McCoy added 14.
Goodwin hit what looked like it might be a shot that would get UNT back on track late in the second half, banking in a 3 with 6:17 left to put the Mean Green up 60-54 after Arizona had pulled within three points. Ash’Lynne Evans added a pair of free throws to put UNT up eight.
That surge turned out to be a brief one. Arizona quickly recovered and continued its onslaught.
“We couldn’t have played much better in the first half,” Petersen said. “We couldn’t have played much worse in the second half. I have no idea what the difference was. We talked about it at halftime. This team wasn’t going to go away. We talked about going and winning the game.”
Arizona 71, North Texas 66
ARIZONA (4-2) — Griffitts 4-14 4-4 14, Poston 7-10 0-1 14, Alli 4-7 3-4 11, Whyte 5-16 2-3 14, White 0-1 0-0 0, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Cannon 1-3 0-0 3, Barnes 6-11 3-4 15. Totals 27-62 12-16 71.
NORTH TEXAS (1-5) — Stanley 2-10 1-2 5, Hyder 2-5 3-4 7, McCoy 5-9 4-6 14, Dawkins 2-7 3-6 7, Nelson 2-7 2-2 6, Christian 0-0 2-2 2, Evans 0-0 2-2 2, Blakely 1-3 0-0 2, Tac 2-2 1-1 5, Goodwin 7-15 0-2 16. Totals 23-58 14-21 66.
Halftime — UNT 34-17. 3-point goals — Arizona 5-20 (Griffitts 2-10, Whyte 2-8, White 0-1, Cannon 1-1), UNT 6-19 (Hyder 0-1, McCoy 4-6, Dawkins 0-2, Nelson 0-2, Goodwin 2-8). Fouled out — Blakely. Rebounds — Arizona 36 (Barnes 8), UNT 42 (Stanley 10), Personal fouls — Arizona 16, UNT 18.