North Texas was right where it wanted to be early in the second half of its game Saturday against UAB.
The Mean Green had a 15-point lead and all the momentum on their side as they looked to knock off one of the top teams in Conference USA.
UNT played solid defense at times the rest of the way. The Mean Green pulled down a few key rebounds as well.
What they didn’t do was score.
That lack of offensive punch doomed UNT in a 51-50 loss to the Blazers at the Super Pit.
UNT scored just eight points over the final 15:13 after grabbing a 42-27 lead on an Anisha George jumper in the third quarter.
The Mean Green (9-14, 3-8) had four chances to break out of that funk and pull out the win in the final seconds.
Charlene Shepherd missed a jumper with 46 seconds left. UNT had another chance coming out of a timeout with 14.6 seconds remaining but failed to convert when UAB (16-8, 8-4) tied up Shepherd for a jump ball as she was trying to get the ball to George, who had posted up low.
UNT failed to get off a shot on two out-of-bounds plays in the final second.
That drought sent UNT to its fourth straight loss and its second straight after blowing a big lead. The Mean Green squandered a 13-point first-half lead in a loss to Middle Tennessee on Thursday.
“We don’t like to lose, but we did make some strides from Thursday as far as playing a complete game,” UNT coach Jalie Mitchell said.
UNT just couldn’t close the deal, which has been a problem all season. The Mean Green have blown double-digit leads in games they have lost seven times this season.
UNT is leaning on a host of freshmen and newcomers this season in clutch situations and has struggled to convert.
The Mean Green were particularly poor against UAB at the free-throw line, where they missed all eight of their attempts.
“We are lacking experience,” Mitchell said. “At the same time, that is not what lost us the game. We have played enough minutes to at least have experience playing the game.”
UNT’s struggles late spoiled a solid outing from George. The senior finished with a game-high 22 points. Randi Thompson added 12 and was the Mean Green’s only other player who finished in double figures.
Rachael Childress led UAB with 18 points and hit four shots from 3-point range. Zakyia Weathersby added 10.
UAB turned the game around in the second half after UNT rolled to a 38-27 halftime lead.
The Mean Green got the ball inside to George over and over and saw her respond with 18 points in the opening 20 minutes.
UNT also clamped down on UAB defensively while limiting the Blazers to 1-for-9 shooting from 3-point range.
The Blazers made the key adjustment in the second half that turned the game after George scored the first four points of the second half to give UNT its 15-point edge at 42-27.
UAB shifted to a zone and changed the complexion of the game.
“We didn’t get all the way to the rim, which we did a good job of in the first half,” Mitchell said. “They also packed it in against Anisha. She needed more touches.”
George didn’t score for the rest of the game after tallying her quick four to start the second half.
UNT has struggled to shoot the ball from the perimeter all season and couldn’t find a way to score once UAB took away George and any space the Mean Green had to drive into the paint.
UNT continued to play well defensively against a UAB team that came into the day averaging 75.8 points per game, the top total in Conference USA.
That just wasn’t enough.
“We did a good job with the game plan,” Mitchell said. “We held them to 51. We just needed to score 52.”
UAB 51, North Texas 50
UAB (16-8, 8-4) – Vendrell 2-11 3-3 7, Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Banes 3-6 1-2 7, Magee 2-10 0-0 4, Childress 6-15 2-2 18, Mitchell 0-1 2-2 2, Weathersby 5-6 0-0 10, Whitley 0-2 1-2 1, Rosenfeldt 0-0 0-0 0, Kerestein 0-1 0-0 0, Jordan 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 19-54 9-11 51.
NORTH TEXAS (9-14 3-8) – Townley 1-2 0-0 2, George 11-16 0-3 22, Boyd 3-12 0-3 6, Thompson 5-13 0-2 12, Mims 1-3 0-0 2, Jackson 1-4 0-0 2, Shepherd 2-5 0-0 4, Jones 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-57 0-8 50.
UAB 11 16 13 11 — 51 North Texas 16 22 8 4 — 50
Three-point goals – UAB 4-18 (Vendrell 0-2, Barnes 0-2, Magee 0-3, Childress 4-9, Mitchell 0-1, Whitley 0-1) UNT 2-8 (Boyd 0-1, Thompson 2-3, Jackson 0-1, Shepherd 0-2, Jones 0-1). Fouled out – none. Rebounds – UAB 36 (Childress 9) UNT 38 (two tied, 8). Assists – UAB 10 (Barnes 4) UNT 6 (Boyd 3). Total fouls – UAB 8, UNT 14. A – 1,327.