The last time Jacob Holmen suffered an injury like the one he picked up in North Texas’ win over South Alabama on Saturday, he ended up spending a lot of time in the dark.
That was about a year ago, when the forward endured his second concussion in a little more than a month.
Holmen struggled to come back from that injury, and the senior is right back in the same spot again after suffering his third concussion in a little more than a year.
The former Whitehouse standout collided with a USA player, fell to the floor and was helped off the court. Holmen played just five minutes against the Jaguars and was not at practice Tuesday.
“He has had three [concussions] now that I know of,” first-year UNT coach Tony Benford said. “I’m worried about his health — forget about basketball. I want him to be able to have a productive life. He’s a sharp kid and already has his degree. I don’t know how long it will be. We will just see what happens.”
UNT has suffered through a devastating series of injuries this season and will be shorthanded heading into a two-game road trip this week to Florida International and Florida Atlantic.
The Mean Green (7-11, 2-5 Sun Belt) will face FIU on Thursday before taking on FAU on Saturday.
UNT already is without guards Chris Jones and Brandan Walton, who are out for the year with broken feet. Clarke Overlander, another guard, is out two to four weeks with a sprained anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Forward Justin Patton also is dealing with a knee injury. Benford said that Patton would be in and out of the lineup for the rest of the season.
Holmen is averaging 5.6 points and 3.5 rebounds a game and has started seven times this year.
UNT will lean heavily on freshman P.J. Hardwick and junior Alzee Williams with so many of its other guards recovering from injuries.
“[It] puts a lot of pressure on P.J. and Alzee to handle the ball along with Tony Mitchell, who is our third-best ball handler,” Benford said of the injuries. “You will see Tony leading the break. When Tony gets the rebound, he has the license to push the ball and initiate the offense.”
There is a chance that UNT could be without Holmen for an extended period of time due to his latest concussion, an injury that can have cumulative effects.
Holmen suffered his first concussion when he hit his head on the floor in practice before a game at Mississippi State on Nov. 27, 2011. He then was elbowed in the head in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock on Dec. 29 of that same year.
He missed nearly a month while recovering. Holmen was told by doctors that he couldn’t play basketball or video games while he sat out. He also had to stay away from bright lights.
Holmen was not available for comment Tuesday, but he did talk about his time away from basketball due to concussions last year.
“I haven’t been doing anything but resting my brain,” Holmen said at the time.
The rest helped Holmen, who came back to start nine of UNT’s last 10 games. He scored in double figures in all three of the Mean Green’s Sun Belt Conference tournament games and was named to the all-tournament team.
UNT — and Holmen — will be hoping for a similar outcome this year.
UNT expects FIU to have familiar look
Richard Pitino is in his first season as the head coach at FIU. But that doesn’t mean that Benford and his staff won’t know what to expect when the Mean Green faces the Golden Panthers on Thursday.
Pitino is the son of legendary Kentucky coach Rick Pitino.
“Being from Marquette, we played his dad’s teams,” Benford said. “We are familiar with his style of play.”
FIU (8-8) has held its own in Pitino’s first season and enters its game against UNT with a 3-4 mark in Sun Belt play.
The Golden Panthers rank third in the Sun Belt with an average of 69.8 points a game and rank second in steals at 9.1 per game.
UNT preparing for Coley
UNT will face one of its biggest challenges of the Sun Belt season when the Mean Green takes on FIU on Thursday in the first game of a doubleheader that will conclude with the men’s game.
FIU guard Jerica Coley leads the Sun Belt with an average of 23.8 points a game. Coley is a big reason the Golden Panthers (10-6) are off to a 4-3 start in Sun Belt play.
Coley scored 37 points and hit the game-winning jumper to give FIU a win over UALR on Saturday.
UNT (6-10, 5-2) is in first place in the Sun Belt’s West Division.
“They are playing well and they have the best perimeter offensive player in the league in Coley,” UNT coach Mike Petersen said. “She is a very, very hard guard. For a kid who is averaging that many points, she is really patient. A lot of people who score that many points just keep jacking it up. She takes what you give her. She can shoot the 3 a little bit, is great in the mid-range, can finish at the rim and is great in transition. It’s not just one thing. You really have to guard her.”
The matchup between Coley and UNT could be interesting due to the fact that the Mean Green has settled in to play a series of zone defenses. UNT rarely has played man-to-man — the defense teams see almost exclusively in the Sun Belt.
Petersen said UNT wouldn’t change what has been working even though the Mean Green has a few players who might be able to challenge Coley one-on-one, including BreAnna Dawkins, Desiree Nelson and Loryn Goodwin.
McCoy has big week
Laura McCoy posted one of the better weeks of her career while helping UNT win its last four games.
The junior scored in double figures in each of those games, including pouring in 20 points against Louisiana-Monroe and a career-high 23 against UALR. McCoy hit six of her seven attempts from 3-point range against the Trojans.
She also went 15-for-16 from the free throw line over the Mean Green’s last four games.
What Petersen was particularly pleased with was the way McCoy managed to score 15 points in UNT’s win over USA, even though the Jaguars limited her to just two 3-point attempts, one of which she made.
McCoy has made 32 shots from behind the arc this season, a total that ranks third in the Sun Belt.
The former Flower Mound standout made 13 of her 20 shots from the floor and hit seven of her nine 3-point attempts in UNT’s last two games.
“McCoy had a great week,” Petersen said. “Her numbers were ridiculous. What was great was the way she adjusted against South Alabama. They crowded her and were not going to let her shoot the 3. She showed a lot of maturity in not getting frustrated and taking the ball to the basket.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .