The North Texas women’s basketball team was on a bit of a roll offensively heading into a two-game homestand last week.
UNT scored at least 67 points in each of its outings during a five-game winning streak and tallied 67 again in a loss on the road to Florida Atlantic.
The Mean Green will look to get back to that type of pace again this week, beginning with a game at 7 tonight at Louisiana-Lafayette, after a pair of games where it struggled to score.
UNT (7-13, 6-5) lost to Arkansas-Little Rock 52-48 on Saturday, just two days after it suffered a 60-47 loss to Middle Tennessee.
UNT’s previous low for points in a game came in a 59-50 loss to UT-Arlington on Dec. 18.
The Mean Green enters tonight’s game against the Ragin’ Cajuns (7-13, 1-10) ranked fourth in the Sun Belt with an average of 67.7 points a game.
UNT head coach Mike Petersen said that there was no common theme in the Mean Green’s last two losses when it comes to offensive production.
“In the Middle [Tennessee] game, it was mostly a second-half problem,” Petersen said. “That was the first time all season we went away from what we do and didn’t execute very well. There was a little frustration where we tried to fix team problems with individual play.”
UALR adjusted after losing 68-65 at home to UNT earlier this season.
“The Little Rock game I didn’t have a problem with our offensive operation,” Petersen said. “Some of it was them. They held the ball against our zone and had a lot of long possessions. There were fewer possessions in the game, and we missed some open shots. We missed some wide-open kick-outs and 10- and 12-foot jumpers that we usually make.”
UNT also missed some key free throws late.
The game was the second of the second time through league schedule for UNT, which could face challenges in rematch games against Sun Belt opponents. UNT lost to MTSU 66-64 in the teams’ first meeting.
UNT’s top three scorers are freshmen Alexis Hyder (13.0 points a game) and Loryn Goodwin (12.4) and sophomore BreAnna Dawkins (10.6). Dawkins transferred from Wichita State and is in her first season playing for the Mean Green.
None of UNT’s Sun Belt opponents had played against the Mean Green’s top players prior to this season.
Now all of them have first-hand experience when it comes to their strengths, weaknesses and tendencies instead of just a scouting report.
“That happens over the course of the season,” Petersen said. “You see different looks as more film becomes available. People see things and work things out. Every team will give us a different look. It will be up to us to take advantage of our strengths.”
MTSU held Hyder to two points on Thursday. She bounced back to score 11 points against UALR, but went 4 for 12 from the floor and had to fight through constant double teams.
“If they don’t try to take away Hyder, it’s malpractice,” Petersen said. “As a coaching staff we need to put her into situations where she can succeed. What good players do is read the situation and adjust. She will get better and better as she gets more experience.”
Hyder scored 16 points to lead four players in double figures in UNT’s 71-59 win over ULL in its Sun Belt opener earlier this year.
UNT has remained near the top of the Sun Belt West Division standings ever since.
ULL has plummeted to the bottom. Only Troy, which is 0-10, has a worse conference record than the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Freshman guard Sylvana Okde is averaging 11.4 points a game and is ULL’s only player averaging double figures.
UNT shorthanded today
UNT will be shorthanded for its game against ULL today, when it is expected to have only eight players available.
Junior guard Hannah Christian, who has not played since a win over South Alabama on Jan. 12, did not make the trip to Lafayette, La., due to concussion-like symptoms.
Sophomore forward Braylah Blakely pulled a quad muscle after playing only five minutes in a loss to Middle Tennessee on Thursday and also missed the trip. Blakely didn’t play in UNT’s loss to UALR on Saturday.
UNT has four players redshirting this season either due to NCAA transfer rules or injury and now has two additional out with injuries.
Good news on injury front
UNT received good news on the injury front regarding starting point guard Chris Jones, but is still waiting on the results of an MRI conducted on backup forward Jacob Holmen.
Both Jones and Holmen saw doctors early this week.
UNT head coach Tony Benford was on the road recruiting on Tuesday, but a university spokesman confirmed the status of both players.
Jones, who broke his foot in a loss to Western Kentucky on Dec. 29, has progressed to the point that he can walk without crutches, but is still wearing a walking boot.
What UNT has yet to determine is if he will recover to the point he can play late this season. The hope is that he can be back in time for the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
Holmen has suffered three concussions in a little more than a year.
The former Whitehouse standout hit his head on the floor during practice just hours before UNT played at Mississippi State on Nov. 27, 2011. He suffered a second concussion when he was hit by an elbow in a loss to UALR on Dec. 29 of that same year.
Holmen suffered yet another concussion when he was involved in a collision in a win over South Alabama on Jan. 12.
The return of Jones and Holmen would be a boost for UNT, which has suffered through an unusual series of injuries in its first season under Benford.
UNT lost senior guard Brandan Walton for the season when he broke his foot in a season-opening loss to Creighton. Senior forward Justin Patton had surgery to repair torn cartilage on his knee before the season and has been limited throughout the year, while freshman guard Clarke Overlander missed four games with a sprained anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
Overlander is still recovering and has only played two games since returning.
The loss of so many key players has left UNT with a short bench. The Mean Green’s bench has been outscored 49-1 in its last two games combined.
“Those guys are helping us when they get a chance to get in, but it has been tough in certain situations,” UNT guard Alzee Williams said.
The return of Jones and Holmen could help significantly.
Jones is averaging 10.2 points and 5.0 assists a game, while Holmen is averaging 5.6 points and 3.5 rebounds a game.
UNT returns after big win
UNT will play its first two home matches of the spring season this weekend after picking up a milestone win over the weekend.
UNT played two matches at the ITA Kick-off weekend in College Station, falling to No. 13 Texas A&M 4-1, before coming back to knock off 41st-ranked Minnesota 4-3.
UNT will play host to Old Dominion at noon Saturday before facing Lamar at 11 a.m. Sunday.
“That was the first Big Ten team we have beaten,” UNT head coach Sujay Lama said of the Mean Green’s win over Minnesota. “That was big for us.
“It will put us back in the top 50 of the rankings when they come out.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .