COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Maurice Aniefiok led the way with 16 points and Alzee Williams followed with 14 as North Texas stunned Texas A&M 61-41 Tuesday.
The Mean Green shot 51 percent (25 of 49) from the field, compared to 30 percent (15 of 50) for the Aggies. A&M (8-4) struggled from the floor for a second consecutive game, after shooting 26.9 percent in a 64-52 setback to Oklahoma in Houston on Dec. 21.
The middling Aggies had found solace at home until Tuesday, in having won all eight of their previous home contests. But UNT (8-5) jumped on the unsuspecting Aggies early, and roared to a 36-19 halftime lead. The Aggies, who were 4 of 18 (22 percent) behind the 3-point line and 7 of 15 (47 percent) from the free-throw line, couldn't overcome their shooting woes.
Alex Caruso led Texas A&M with 10 points.
TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH BILLY KENNEDY
“I apologize to the fans that came to the game. We’re not that bad, but we sure looked like it at times. We got to get our guys playing confident again, they worked hard all week, they’re doing what we’re asking them to do, but it seems like when we make subs or get tired, for whatever reason, our level of play really drops. Zone again, I’d love to tell you we didn’t work on it all week but we did, saw at the beginning of the game, we moved the ball, got great shots, then all of a sudden it changed, and we got to be more consistent and have some composure and play with more confidence than we’re playing.”
On the team’s confidence:
“I told them, you are a Division I basketball player, you got be able to pass and catch, got to be able to make open shots, we don’t play that way against ourselves maybe that’s part of it. I know we’re not taking their confidence and crushing them mentally. That’s something they got to figure out on their own, and just get in the gym and work through it. Our team, we’ve got a bunch of wings making plays for each other and passing-and-catching against the zone; decision-making is not what it needs to be, but that’s who we got. I’ve got to do a better job coaching them, preparing them for that. I’ve got to get them believing they can play at this level and have success.”
TEXAS A&M GUARD ALEX CARUSO
On A&M’s performance:
“I don’t know how to explain it honestly, we just played really bad. I don’t know if we’ve been this bad in practice in a long, long time. I take all the accountability for the players, we didn’t bring it today.”
On his early shooting success but struggling as a team:
“I was fortunate to get open looks; guys made extra passes and I knocked them down. I don’t know how to explain it. We were in a groove for a little bit. Give credit to them, they made shots, I don’t know if Maurice Aniefiok has made four threes [in a game] all year. They knocked down shots and we didn’t.”
TEXAS A&M FORWARD KOURTNEY ROBERSON
On A&M’s performance:
“We just didn’t bring it today. Missed a lot of open shots.”
On how to build A&M’s confidence:
“I think we got to get in the gym more, just build that confidence in the gym by ourselves just knocking down shots, then when we get to the game it’ll be easier.”
NORTH TEXAS HEAD COACH TONY BENFORD
“We knew coming into the game that Texas A&M is obviously a great defensive team. I think one of the better defensive teams in the country. We knew we were going to have to execute very well in half court if we were going to have a shot to win this game. I thought were going to have to do a great job with defense and transition, and I thought we did that. I told the guys I thought this was going to be a paint game; the team that got the most paint touches would probably win the game. I thought we did a great job of executing our scouting report, keeping them out of the paint, getting to their shooters, and rebounding the basketball. It got away from us early in the second half. We didn’t rebound the basketball, didn’t put bodies on them, and they did a good job on the backboard. I thought we did a good job contesting the shooters, forcing them to shoot threes, and then really being solid offensively. We took care of the basketball and got good shots when we needed to.”
On the final score:
“[The score] does [surprise me]. They are a better team. They are going to win a lot of games in league. It was just our night tonight. I thought they started pressing a little bit when the shots wouldn’t fall in. Caruso hit a couple early, and we stayed with our zone. I am just proud of our guys and the effort that we gave. I thought we did a good job throughout the 40 minutes of being tough. Defense did a solid job on the defense keeping them out of the paint, contesting their shots and rebounding the ball.”
TEAM RECORDS & SERIES NOTES
● Texas A&M saw its record on the year fall to 8-4 after the 61-41 loss to North Texas at Reed Arena Tuesday evening … The Mean Green, conversely, improved to 8-5 on the season.
● The loss snapped an eight-game home winning streak for the Aggies inside Reed Arena … A&M is 116-12 (.906) all-time against non-conference competition at the facility.
● The all-time series between Texas A&M and North Texas now stands at 12-9 in favor of the Aggies.
● Texas A&M struggled from the floor for the second straight contest, shooting just 30 percent for the game (15-of-50) … From 3-point range, A&M was 4-of-18 (22.2%).
● The Mean Green, meanwhile, made 25-of-49 shots during the game (51%).
● The Aggies were guilty of 17 turnovers, matching a similar 17-turnover performance against Sam Houston State on Nov. 24 for the most in a game this season.
● After the Aggies opened the game on a 10-4 run, UNT scored 32 of the first half’s final 41 points to take a 36-19 advantage into the intermission.
● Texas A&M used an 11-5 run to cut the UNT lead down to just 10 points at 43-33 with 8:54 remaining in the game, but could not close the gap any further.
● The Maroon & White used the starting line-up combination of Alex Caruso, Jordan Green, Jamal Jones, Antwan Space and Kourtney Roberson for the first time this season.
● Sophomore guard Alex Caruso led the Aggies with 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting from the floor, including a 2-of-3 mark from behind the 3-point arc … It marked the 11th time the College Station, Texas, native has reach double-digit points in his career.
● Junior forward Kourtney Roberson pulled down six rebounds to pace the Aggies.
● A&M head coach Billy Kennedy is now 40-37 in his third season at Texas A&M and 251-216 in 16 years as a head coach.
● The Aggies are back in action on Saturday (Jan. 4) when they host UTPA at Reed Arena in a 3 p.m. contest … the game will be the final non-conference affair for A&M before it kicks off SEC play by hosting Arkansas on Jan. 8.
● North Texas, meanwhile, will host UC Riverside in Denton, Texas, on Jan. 4.
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