For a few minutes early in its game against Louisiana Tech, North Texas appeared as if it might cruise to a key Conference USA win Saturday at the Super Pit.
The Mean Green hit its first couple of shots, converted a three-point play and had momentum squarely on its side.
What happened from that point on in a 67-54 loss was a microcosm of what UNT coach Mike Petersen described as a season-long problem.
UNT (12-16, 6-9 C-USA) went into a funk after running out to a 9-0 lead and couldn’t find its way out of it until it was too late. The Mean Green coughed up a 25-3 run over the span of 10:49 after jumping out to its early lead, during which it went 1-for-10 from the field and 1-for-5 from the line and turned the ball over seven times.
UNT has struggled with consistency all season both within games and from game to game. A loss to Louisiana Tech (9-19, 4-11) was just the latest example.
UNT has alternated wins and losses in its last nine games and hasn’t put together back-to-back wins since its lone two-game streak of the season Nov. 23 and 24, when the Mean Green beat Abilene Christian and Bethune-Cookman.
“I don’t question our want-to or motivation,” Petersen said. “It’s our competitive maturity — it’s not what it needs to be. When things don’t go right and we don’t make shots or we perceive that we are not getting the whistles we need, we get frustrated, and frustration is not a luxury competitors have.”
Petersen said he could feel the Mean Green falling into that trap while running out to the early lead. UNT couldn’t have started off much better while forcing Tech to take a timeout 53 seconds into the game.
From there it was all downhill for UNT during the Lady Techsters’ run.
Lulu Perry hit back-to-back 3s early in the surge, which began with a 13-0 burst. UNT’s Eboniey Jeter temporarily stemmed the tide with a three-point play, but Tech kept on rolling. Perry banked in a 3 and then hit another to end the run that left UNT down 25-12.
“They came down and hit a few 3s in a row, and it knocked the wind out of us a little bit,” UNT guard Laura McCoy said. “We didn’t do a good job of turning around, executing and pushing the ball back at them. That is something we have to get better at. You can’t go on scoring droughts.”
UNT never recovered on a day it leaned heavily on a few key players. Janis Peterson led UNT with 16 points, while Alexis Hyder added 13 points. McCoy finished with 11 points and hit three 3s to give her 160 for her career, moving her past Nicole Thomas into second place in program history.
UNT struggled all day offensively, despite having three double-figure scorers. The Mean Green shot just 30.5 percent (18-for-59) from the field and 46.4 percent (13-for-28) from the line.
“We were not finishing,” Hyder said. “We got to the rim and didn’t finish. There is no excuse for it. Not finishing took a toll on us.”
UNT didn’t have many players to turn to while looking for a spark. The Mean Green has already lost four players for the season to injury and lost another last week when Taylor Hooker gave up the game for personal reasons.
UNT had just five players score and played seven.
Louisiana Tech played 11 players, including eight who scored. Whitney Frazier led Tech with 23 points, while Perry added 19 and JaQuan Jackson had 11.
UNT made a run after that trio led Tech on its first-half burst and got back within six at 28-22, but would get no closer the rest of the half.
Tech led 37-29 at halftime and pushed its lead to 17 with a 9-0 run to open the second half.
UNT got back within nine at 48-39 on a Hyder layup at the 11:13 mark, but it couldn’t maintain its momentum.
The loss was a key setback for UNT in its pursuit of a first-round bye in the C-USA tournament. The top four seeds will receive a double bye, while seeds five through eight receive a bye. UNT entered the day in a tie for ninth place with Florida International.
That is not where UNT had hoped to be after beating a 20-win UTEP team in its last home game and hammering Rice 66-52 earlier in the week.
UNT followed up each of those wins with tough losses, the first time a 63-42 loss to Tulsa and now with its setback against the Lady Techsters.
“We’ve attached ourselves, unfortunately, to this roller coaster,” Petersen said. “The last four games are just the most glaring example that I have ever seen. You can’t play better than we did against UTEP and Rice and can’t play much worse than we did against Tulsa and Louisiana Tech.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.
Louisiana Tech 67, North Texas 54
LOUISIANA TECH (9-19, 4-11) – Frazier 8-17 7-10 23, Langston 1-5 0-2 2, Jackson 4-11 3-4 11, Walter 1-2 0-0 3, Andrews 1-3 0-0 3, Shelton 0-3 2-4 2, Vucincic 0-0 0-0 0, Jefferson 0-0 0-0 0, Lulu 5-13 5-6 19, Moten 0-1 0-0 0, Hall 2-6 0-0 4. Totals 22-61 17-26 67.
NORTH TEXAS (12-16, 6-9) – Wynn 4-11 0-4 8, Peterson 5-14 4-6 16, Hyder 4-9 5-11 13, McCoy 3-9 2-2 11, Nelson 0-6 0-2 0, Christian 0-2 0-0 0, Jeter 2-8 2-3 6. Totals 18-59 13-28 54.
Halftime – La. Tech 37-29. Three-point goals – La. Tech 6-18 (Langston 0-2, Jackson 0-3, Walter 1-1, Andrews 1-3, Shelton 0-1, Perry 4-8), UNT 5-21 (Wynn 0-2, Peterson 2-8, Hyder 0-1, McCoy 3-7, Nelson 0-1, Christian 0-2). Fouled out – Wynn, McCoy, Langston. Rebounds – La. Tech 50 (Walter, Shelton 9), UNT 43 (Jeter 10). Assists – La. Tech 9 (Walter 3), UNT 8 (Wynn, McCoy, Nelson 2). Total fouls – La. Tech 20, UNT 23. A – NA.