Mean Green’s First-Half Advantage Too Much for Southern Miss to Overcome
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 17, 2021
HATTIESBURG, Miss. — North Texas showed its power as the defending C-USA champions by building a 17-point halftime lead and maintaining it the rest of the way in a 68-56 win over Southern Miss on Saturday evening.
“We have some guys struggling a little bit,” head coach Jay Ladner said. “We dug ourselves into a hole and played well later, but it’s hard to overcome. We had some chances to cut it to seven or eight in the second half, just a play or two away from making a sincere run at it, but overall I was pleased with the effort in the second half.”
North Texas raced out to a 19-9 lead over the first nine minutes, then 26-16 at 6:35 before a 39-22 margin at the break.
Southern Miss found some second-half life with back-to-back steals (Tae Hardy and Tyler Morman) and fastbreak dunks (Tyler Stevenson and Justin Johnson, respectively) cut UNT’s lead to 41-28 at 17:25 and forced a timeout.
The Mean Green, however, upped their lead to 50-32 at 12:31. The Golden Eagles got within 10 three separate times between 6:22 and 3:58, and then nine at 3:18 on a Jaron Pierre Jr. jumper, but that was as close as they would get.
Johnson finished with a career-high 16 points (5-for-10 from the field, 6-for-6 at the line) to lead Southern Miss. North Texas finished with just 46 field-goal attempts, a season-low for the Golden Eagles, but still shot 54.3 percent.
Southern Miss hits the road next weekend for its final regular-season road games, battling FIU on Friday and Saturday.
–Tyler Morman earned his first-career start, while Justin Johnson made his third of the year and first of C-USA play.
-Jaron Pierre Jr. finished with 12 points, his seventh game in double-figures.
-Southern Miss went 18-for-23 at the foul line, the fifth time this year it had 20-plus attempts.