Alexis Hyder watched as the ball hung on the rim.
For the North Texas forward, her teammates and the fans in the stands at the Super Pit, it seemed to stick there for an eternity as the final seconds of regulation in a game against rival SMU on Saturday ran off the clock.
Eventually the ball rolled out.
The Mean Green thought a lot about what would have been if that shot had dropped after the Mustangs pulled away for an 84-79 overtime win.
UNT (5-6) has now lost seven of its last eight against SMU and has dropped four games by six points or fewer this season and fallen twice in overtime.
“We need, as a group, to do a better job with the game on the line,” UNT head coach Mike Petersen said. “We are 5-6 and are four possessions from being 9-2. There are some teams that can say that, but not a lot. We have to do a better job of finishing what we start.”
Keena Mays certainly finished for SMU, hitting a series of key shots while scoring a game-high 32 points in a game of wild swings.
The biggest came in the closing seconds of regulation. SMU (9-2) had the ball after Hyder hit one of two free throws with 36.6 seconds remaining.
The Mustangs got the ball to the American Athletic Conference’s leading scorer, who showed why she is averaging 19.8 points a game. Mays took the ball straight to the basket and scored.
“Mays was what we knew she was in terms of her ability to dominate the ball and score on her own,” Petersen said. “We did a good job in the second half of controlling her. Then all of the sudden she was getting loose and going to the rim. I don’t know if we got tentative or were afraid to foul.”
UNT had a chance to answer and got the ball to Hyder, who spun into the lane and lofted onto the rim her shot that wouldn’t fall.
“I wish I would have gotten [the ball] earlier,” Hyder said. “With three seconds left you have to move quickly. I wish it would have went in more than anything, but it was a good shot at the time.”
Petersen couldn’t have been happier with the look.
“We got Hyder isolated going to the rim one-on-one,” Petersen said. “I will take that shot every time. She played it perfect. She played through contact and put foul pressure on them. The ball sat on the rim and didn’t go in. We got exactly what we wanted.”
Mays made sure UNT didn’t get what it wanted in terms of the outcome in overtime. The senior hit a jumper to open overtime and later hit a 3-pointer that put SMU up 79-74.
UNT never recovered.
Mays and the Mustangs spoiled a big game for Janis Peterson. The junior guard continued her recent surge by scoring 23 points to lead three UNT players in double figures. Hyder added 16 points and Acheil Tac posted a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
“I knew how important this game was to my team,” Peterson said. “We really wanted this win, and we deserved it even though we came up short. I had to do whatever I could for the team.”
Peterson scored 27 points in a loss to Northern Colorado and 15 in a win over Denver before another solid performance against SMU in a third straight start.
Peterson credited her recent surge to feeling comfortable.
“I am closer to the team and we have more of a connection on the court,” Peterson said. “My teammates are getting my confidence up. I have that connection with them now.”
Peterson helped key a 19-2 run in the second half that helped the Mean Green seemingly take control of the game.
Laura McCoy drove and scored to cap the run and put the Mean Green up 67-57 with 4:30 left.
Mays took over from there, scoring seven points down the stretch. She hit a 3 to pull SMU to within 67-62 before sinking her layup to send the game into overtime.
UNT had no answer.
“The biggest problem was we were up 10 and the next three minutes we had three turnovers,” Petersen said. “We can’t turn the ball over. In a game that is that close, if you go three minutes and get one shot that went in, it’s hard to win like that.”
UNT didn’t make matters any easier by falling behind 36-18 in the early going. The Mean Green got back into the game with a 10-1 run to close the half.
The Mustangs’ only point in the last 4:58 of the first half came on a Brittney Hardy free throw.
UNT took advantage and cut its deficit to 37-28 at the break.
The Mean Green kept on fighting and had a chance late to pull out what would have been a key win only to see another close game slip away, this time against SMU — which only made it hurt a little more.
“We should have won, but it was a team effort,” Hyder said. “We are improving. You can see it. I am happy about that, but the loss hurts.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.
SMU 84, North Texas 79
SMU (9-2) — Simpson 7-9 4-6 18, Singleton 1-3 1-2 3, Perry 3-7 0-0 6, Baker 1-10 3-3 5, Mays 9-17 10-12 32, Wilkins 2-2 3-5 7, Johnson 0-0 1-1 1, Short 3-8 0-0 9, Hardy 0-3 3-4 3. Totals 26-59 25-33 84.
NORTH TEXAS (5-6) — Evans 1-2 0-0 2, Tac 5-7 3-4 13, Peterson 7-22 3-4 23, Adams 1-2 0-0 2, Nelson 0-6 0-0 0, Christian 2-4 1-2 7, Wynn 1-6 2-2 4, McCoy 2-10 2-2 6, Jeter 2-5 0-0 4, Darrington 0-0 2-2 2, Hyder 6-13 4-7 16.
Halftime — SMU 37-28. 3-point goals — SMU 7-24 (Singleton 0-1, Perry 0-2, Baker 0-7, Mays 4-8, Short 3-6). UNT 8-28 (Peterson 6-13, Nelson 0-3, Christian 2-4, Wynn 0-2, McCoy 0-5, Hyder 0-1). Fouled out — none. Rebounds — SMU 44 (Simpson, Perry 7), UNT 46 (Tac 11). Assists — SMU 12 (Baker 3), UNT 7 (Adams, Christian 2). Total fouls — SMU 20, UNT 22. A — 854.