A late-season run against some of the best teams in the Sun Belt Conference has been anything but friendly to North Texas.
That doesn’t bother UNT coach Mike Petersen because each of those games has been a critical one in the race for the league’s West Division title — a championship that is still within the Mean Green’s reach after a heartbreaking 52-48 loss to Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday at the Super Pit.
UNT had the ball with a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds but failed to convert, allowing the Trojans to escape and hand the Mean Green its third straight loss.
“I think it’s awesome we are in a tough stretch because it means the games are valuable,” Petersen said. “That’s great. These last two games were against really good teams and we had a chance to win. We didn’t quite finish and get it done. Our division is going to get settled in the next 3 1/2 weeks.”
UNT (7-13, 6-5 Sun Belt) had a chance to improve its position in the title chase with a win in a game that went down to the wire.
UNT had the ball coming out of a timeout with 16.2 seconds left while UALR (13-7, 6-6) was up 50-48. The Mean Green got the ball to BreAnna Dawkins, who drove to the basket and missed a shot at the rim.
UALR guard Taylor Gault grabbed the rebound and raced the length of the floor before laying the ball in at the buzzer.
“I had to take the shot,” Dawkins said. “I was looking for Alexis [Hyder], but when I got to the rim I had a good look.”
The exchange spoiled a bounce-back performance for Hyder, who finished with 11 points two days after finishing with a season-low two points in UNT’s loss to Middle Tennessee.
Hyder came into the night averaging 13.1 points a game.
Hannah Fohne scored a game-high 13 points and Taylor Ford added 10 for UALR, which picked up a key win in the West Division race.
UNT beat the Trojans earlier this season on the road and had a chance to sweep the season series while moving a little further ahead of UALR in the standings. UALR is sitting right behind UNT now after closing the game on a 7-0 run.
The Mean Green led 48-45 after Dawkins hit a pair of free throws with 3:01 remaining.
UALR made the key plays the rest of the way.
Taylor Ford hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 48 and then hit a jumper to put UALR up for good. UNT scored just two points in the final 4:20, on a pair of free throws from Dawkins.
“It’s basketball,” Petersen said. “It’s a make-miss game. We had a lot of good looks we didn’t make. Normally we are a pretty reliable shooting team.”
The shots went in early for UNT, which led 26-21 at halftime. UNT led by as many as nine points in the first half.
Hyder had 10 points by halftime after hitting all but one of her shots from the floor. She scored four of her points during an early 7-0 run that put UNT up 13-5.
UNT led 26-17 late in the first half before UALR scored the last four points of the half, a run Janeisha Wells capped with a layup with four seconds left.
UNT hit nearly every shot it took from inside the arc, going 10-for-13, but hit just one of its nine shots from 3-point range.
The Mean Green cooled off significantly in the second half, when it shot just 28 percent (7-for-25) from the floor.
Those struggles proved costly when UALR made its run.
“We didn’t adjust very well to the physicality at the rim,” Petersen said. “Normally we finish a lot of that stuff. Tonight we weren’t able to fight through some of that stuff.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Arkansas-Little Rock 52, UNT 48
ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK (13-7, 6-6) — Clark 4-6 0-0 8, James 1-2 1-2 3, Fohne 6-10 1-1 13, Ford 3-7 3-4 10, Cobbins 1-4 3-6 5, Gault 3-13 1-3 7, Merriex 0-2 0-0 0, Wells 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 21-48 9-16 52.
NORTH TEXAS (7-13, 6-5) — Stanley 3-4 0-0 6, McCoy 1-7 1-2 4, Dawkins 3-11 3-4 9, Hyder 4-12 3-4 11, Goodwin 3-10 3-4 9, Tac 2-2 0-0 4, Nelson 2-3 0-1 5. Totals 18-49 10-15 48.
Halftime — UNT 26-21. 3-point goals — UALR 1-6 (Ford 1-3, Cobbins 0-1, Gault 0-1, Merriex 0-1), UALR 2-15 (McCoy 1-5, Dawkins 0-3, Hyder 0-2, Goodwin 0-3, Nelson 1-2). Fouled out — none. Rebounds — UALR 35 (James, Fohne 6), UNT 29 (Hyder 8). Assists — UALR 10 (Cobbins 4), UNT 8 (McCoy, Dawkins, Hyder, Goodwin 2). Total fouls — UALR 17, UNT 16. A — 1,153.