North Texas was in good position to break new ground Wednesday night in its game against Tulsa.
That changed in a hurry when the Golden Hurricane pretty much set up camp at the free throw line at the Super Pit.
Tulsa shot a whopping 39 free throws and drained 25 of them. Those points loomed large on a night when Tulsa ran away from the Mean Green late for a 79-63 win, one that maintained the Golden Hurricane’s hammerlock on the short-term series.
Tulsa has beaten UNT in all five meetings in series history.
The Mean Green (8-12, 2-5 Conference USA) had a golden opportunity to break through against Tulsa, which led just 51-50 in the second half.
That’s when Tulsa (10-7, 4-2) gradually salted the game away at the line, hitting six of seven attempts in a 13-3 run.
Before UNT knew it, Tulsa had extended that run to 23-9 while scoring just seven of those points on field goals — two layups and a 3-pointer from Ashley Clark.
“It’s hard to win a game when an opponent shoots three times as many free throws as you,” UNT coach Mike Petersen said. “That is not a commentary on the officiating. We put them on the line. We didn’t do a good enough job against them off the bounce or blocking out. They had better ball awareness on loose balls. Some of them were us getting there too late. They were better than we were and were rewarded for their aggressiveness by going to the free throw line.”
Most of those free throws came in the second half, when Tulsa made 22 of its 31 attempts, good for 71 percent.
Tulsa went 25-for-39 on the night, while UNT went just 8-for-13 from the charity stripe.
“We struggled a little bit and didn’t stay in front of them or stop their post players from scoring,” UNT forward Acheil Tac said.
Alexis Hyder scored 14 points to lead UNT, while Briesha Wynn added 13 points and Tac 12.
Kadan Brady led four Tulsa players who scored in double figures with 19 points. Clark added 15, Mariah Turner 14 and Kelsee Grovey 14.
UNT led 28-25 late in the first half before Tulsa went on an 11-1 run. Brady capped the surge with a layup that gave the Golden Hurricane its biggest lead of the half at 36-29.
Janis Peterson hit a 3, UNT’s fourth of the half, to pull the Mean Green to within 36-32 at halftime.
Tulsa shot 55.6 percent (15-for-27) in the first half and continually got into the paint, where the Golden Hurricane scored 20 points.
“They got into the paint too much early,” Tac said. “We didn’t contain the bounce and let them get to the paint. We wanted to trap the post and not let them get to the baseline. They got there too much.”
UNT got to the paint as well and was productive when it got the ball inside. The problem was the Mean Green struggled from beyond the arc, hitting just five of its 23 attempts.
UNT hit 20 of its 34 attempts from inside the arc and was even better inside. Wynn, Hyder and Tac, UNT’s main interior players, hit 17 of their 27 field goal attempts against Tulsa, which played a zone defense for much of the game.
Petersen said that for the most part he liked the shots UNT got from the perimeter. Peterson, Laura McCoy and Candice Adams — three of the Mean Green’s best long-range shooters — took 14 of UNT’s 3-point attempts.
“It’s a make-miss game,” Petersen said. “When you are making shots, the world is a yummy place. When you are missing shots, it’s a tough place.”
It was particularly tough in the second half, when UNT quickly saw its chance for a win escape like it has on so many other occasions in conference play.
“We lose sight of our game plan, which is playing hard and rebounding,” Wynn said. “We get down a little bit and then it’s the scoreboard pressure. We feel like we have to do something. We need to maintain our focus and keep playing hard.”
UNT didn’t shoot the ball poorly overall in the second half, making 46.4 percent (13-for-28) of its field goal attempts.
That level of efficiency just wasn’t enough as Tulsa shot so often in one of the easiest situations in basketball — from the free throw line.
“They got to playing downhill, got used to hearing the whistle blow — and when that happens?” Petersen said. “The whistle blows.”
UNT’s chance for its first win over Tulsa was blown to bits as a result.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.
Tulsa 79, North Texas 63
TULSA (10-7, 4-2) – Spoerl 3-6 2-4 8, Turner 6-7 2-3 14, Grovey 3-10 6-6 13, Clark 3-9 7-14 15, Brady 7-13 2-2 19, Vasquez 0-0 0-0 0, Parker 1-5 6-6 8, McDaniel 1-2 0-4 2. Totals 24-52 25-39 79.
NORTH TEXAS (8-12, 2-5) – Wynn 5-8 2-2 13, Hyder 6-9 2-3 14, McCoy 0-5 0-0 0, Peterson 2-6 1-2 6, Adams 2-7 1-2 6, Christian 1-1 0-0 3, Evans 1-1 1-1 3, Jeter 0-1 2, Ellison 0-1 0-0 0, Tac 6-10 0-0 12, Hooker 1-6 1-2 4, Nelson 0-1 0-0 0, Davis 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-57 8-13 63.
Halftime – Tulsa 36-32. 3-point goals – Tulsa 6-16 (Grovey 1-4, Clark 2-2, Brady 3-7 Parker 0-3), UNT 5-23 (Wynn 1-1, Hyder 0-1, McCoy 0-5, Peterson 1-4, Adams 1-5, Christian 1-1, Hooker 1-4, Nelson 0-1, Davis 0-1). Fouled out – Wynn. Rebounds – Tulsa 36 (Spoerl 9), UNT 32 (Hyder 7). Assists – Tulsa 10 (four tied, 2), UNT 14 (Hooker 4). Total fouls – Tulsa 15, UNT 26. Technical s – Hyder. A – 632.