North Texas hoped a long layoff and a return to the Super Pit on Sunday would help it recover from a lopsided loss to BYU nearly two weeks ago.
A situation that looked bad just a few days ago started to look much worse after Stephen F. Austin throttled UNT 87-53.
The Mean Green suffered its worst home loss in 13 years and back-to-back defeats by 30 points or more for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
UNT never led, trailed by as many as 37 and, perhaps worst of all, felt like it didn’t compete in a game that appeared as if it offered an opportunity to rebound following a 97-67 loss to the Cougars on Dec. 3.
“That is the most embarrassing game I have been a part of,” said UNT head coach Tony Benford, who has been coaching at the Division I level for more than 20 years. “I give them credit for doing it.”
The last time the Mean Green suffered a beating as bad as it did against UTA at home was in 2000-01 season when it fell to Oklahoma State 94-56.
SFA dominated UNT (5-5) in just about every conceivable way and extended its winning streak to six games. The Mean Green saw its seven-game winning streak against current members of the Southland Conference snapped.
The Lumberjacks (9-2) forced 22 turnovers on a day UNT finished with just two assists. Meanwhile, SFA (9-2) ran its offense to near perfection, scoring 28 points in the paint while running through its precision halfcourt sets.
“You have to be disciplined defensively,” Benford said. “Right now we are a horrible defensive team and that is coaching. I have to do a better job of coaching and mixing up zone and man.”
UNT wasn’t any better at the offensive end.
The Mean Green wants to push the ball but rarely had the opportunity against the Lumberjacks. The Mean Green’s 53 points were a season low.
Jordan Williams scored 14 points and Vertrail Vaughns added 11 for UNT, which shot just 34.9 percent (15-for-43) from the field.
Walker Deshaunt scored a game-high 22 points for SFA, which had three players score in double figures. Jacob Parker added 14 and Thomas Walkup had 13.
That trio helped SFA dominate from the outset. The Lumberjacks went on an early 8-0 run before blowing the game open with a 24-4 surge. UNT turned the ball over six times during SFA’s game-changing run and trailed 47-24 at halftime.
The Mean Green’s 23-point first-half deficit was its largest since trailing by 37 at halftime of a game at UTA on Nov. 22, 2011.
“They just kept going at us and we didn’t respond,” Vaughns said. “They were one step ahead of us. It’s all about effort. We didn’t punch back.”
UNT was shorthanded against SFA. Junior center Keith Coleman sat out due to a sprained ankle he suffered in practice last week, while point guard Chris Jones played just four minutes before a sore back that has been bothering him for weeks sent him to the sideline.
Cincinnati transfer Kelvin Gaines made his UNT debut but played just three minutes. The 6-foot-10 center is still working his way into shape following foot surgery and Benford thought he was a bad matchup when it came to keeping up with the Lumberjacks’ smaller, quicker forwards.
Benford said being without those players was no excuse for the way the Mean Green struggled, especially in halfcourt situations.
“We knew that they were going to get us into the halfcourt.” Benford said. “We worked on it in practice and looked at tape. We weren’t tough enough to knock them off their line, cut and get open.”
UNT struggled as a result and will have to regroup quickly before taking on Central Arkansas on Tuesday.
“We have to move on,” Williams said. “I couldn’t tell you what is wrong right now. We just have to keep working.”
Benford told his players exactly that following Sunday’s loss.
“I told the guys it’s a long season and there’s no one in your corner now,” Benford said. “Everyone thinks that we are not any good, that I can’t coach and they can’t play. There is a lot of basketball left and it’s our job to prove people wrong.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.
Stephen F. Austin 87, North Texas 53
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (9-2) — Gajic 3-10 2-2 8, Parker 5-10 3-4 14, Walkup 3-5 7-8 13, Pinkney 3-4 2-2 8, Haymon 1-6 5-6 7, Walker 7-9 3-3 22, Dotson 0-1 0-0 0, Westbrook 0-2 2-2 2, Camerson 2-3 2-2 7, Brown-White 0-0 0-0 0, Martin 0-1 0-0 0, Clayton 2-4 0-0 4, Brooks 1-1 0-0 2, Costello 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-56 26-29 87.
NORTH TEXAS (5-5) — Voss 1-1 0-2 2, Aniefiok 1-2 0-0 2, A. Williams 1-9 6-8 8, Jones 0-0 0-0 0, J. Williams 4-12 5-6 14, Vaughns 2-5 6-7 11, Walton 2-4 3-6 7, Flannigan 2-3 1-3 5, Taylor 2-5 0-1 4, Gaines 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 15-43 21-33 53.
Halftime — SFA 47-24. 3-point goals — SFA 7-19 (Gajic 0-4, Parker 1-1, Walkup 0-1, Pinkney 0-1, Haymon 0-3, Walker 5-7, Westbrook 0-1, Cameron 1-1). UNT 2-9 (J. Williams 1-3, Vaughns 1-3, Walton 0-2, Taylor 0-1). Fouled out — none. Rebounds — SFA 34 (Gajic 7), UNT 31 (J. Williams 7). Assists — SFA 12 (Walker, Parker 3), UNT 2 (J. Williams, Flannigan). Total fouls — SFA 23, UNT 21. A — 1,238.