Alexis Hyder and Sara Stanley controlled the paint, Laura McCoy hit a 3 and Florida Atlantic looked completely perplexed by the zone North Texas employed defensively.
It was hard to imagine a way in which UNT’s game against FAU could have gone any better for the Mean Green in the early going Wednesday night at the Super Pit.
It’s also hard to imagine how it could have gone any worse from that point on in a 73-60 loss.
FAU went on a pair of key runs, one late in the first half and another out of halftime, to capture momentum and rolled the rest of the way.
The loss was UNT’s fifth straight at home and came at a terrible time for the Mean Green, which was looking to stay in the race for the Sun Belt Conference West Division title, not to mention a bye in the upcoming conference tournament.
UNT (10-17, 9-9) has lost four of its last five and fallen into a tie for sixth in the overall Sun Belt standings with FAU, which swept the season series.
“We have gotten away from who we are,” UNT head coach Mike Petersen said. “We didn’t keep our focus, didn’t keep our intensity.”
That lack of intensity allowed FAU (12-14, 9-9) to get on track offensively in the second half, especially from beyond the 3-point arc. The Owls hit only three of their 16 attempts from 3-point range in the first half, but went a blazing 8 for 13 after halftime.
Briah Blakely went 3 for 5 in the second half and was one of four players to hit multiple 3s for FAU. Breana Turner led four FAU players in double figures with 14 points. Blakely and Kimberly Smith each scored 13 points and hit three 3s.
Hyder posted a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds to lead UNT. Loryn Goodwin added 14 points and BreAnna Dawkins had 10.
Blakely and Smith each hit 3s during a key 8-0 run to start the second half and give FAU its first lead at 32-31.
“They were making more shots,” Goodwin said of the difference between the first and second halves. “We played the same defense in the first half and they didn’t make their shots. In the second half, they made everything, so we went man-to-man and they went in and out. It was hard to guard them. That’s us. We have to be more focused.”
UNT managed to move back in front twice after FAU’s second-half run, but was done in once again by allowing open 3s. The Mean Green led 36-35 after Hyder hit a layup, but FAU came back with a pair of 3s, including one from Lativia Dempsey that put the Owls up 41-36.
UNT never recovered.
“Our communication changed in the second half,” Hyder said. “In the first half you could hear everyone yelling and calling out where the shooters were. You could tell the difference in the second half.”
The energy UNT showed early helped the Mean Green run out to a 14-1 lead. FAU didn’t make a shot from the field until Ashley Stevenson hit a layup at the 13:50 mark.
UNT forced FAU to take shots from the outside and was on top of the Owls when they did, a move that paid off when the FAU shot only 19 percent from beyond the arc in the first half.
UNT appeared as if it would roll when it took a 26-12 lead on a Goodwin jumper but saw FAU quickly get back into the game with a 9-0 run.
Turner hit a layup to start the run. Kimberley Smith hit a 3 from the corner and Blakely scored at the rim to pull FAU to within 26-21.
UNT was still up 31-24 lead at the break, but the Mean Green’s struggles defensively late in the half were a sign of what was to come in the second.
“We played really hard in the first half,” Petersen said. “We were pretty good at basketball in the first half and pretty bad at horse (H-O-R-S-E) in the second half. They just stood there and shot it and we did very little to impact that.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com .
FLORIDA ATLANTIC 73, NORTH TEXAS 60
FLORIDA ATLANTIC (12-14, 9-9) — Miller 3-5 0-2 6, Blakely 4-9 2-2 13, Smith 5-8 0-0 13, Turner 6-12 2-4 14, Brooks 4-10 2-2 11, Robinson 0-0 0-0 0, Stevenson 1-1 0-0 2, Dempsey 2-10 0-0 6, Schrouder 3-6 0-0 8, Queen 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-62 6-10 73.
NORTH TEXAS (10-17, 9-9) — Stanley 3-4 2-2 8, Hyder 6-13 3-5 15, McCoy 3-7 0-0 8, Dawkins 5-10 0-0 10, Goodwin 3-10 8-10 14, Christian 0-4 2-2 2, Evans 0-0 0-0 0, Blakely 1-5 1-2 3. Totals 21-53 16-21 60.
Halftime — UNT 31-24. Three-point goals — FAU 11-29 (Blakely 3-6, Smith 3-5, Brooks 1-5, Dempsey 2-10, Schrouder 2-3), UNT 2-13 (McCoy 2-6, Goodwin 0-6, Christian 0-1). Fouled out — none. Rebounds — FAU 33 (Smith 7), UNT 37 (Hyder 13). Assists — FAU 15 (Miller 5), UNT 7 (Dawkins, Christian 2). Total fouls — FAU 16, UNT 15. A –387.