"I don’t know how to explain it honestly" - Alex Caruso
"We just didn’t bring it today" - Kourtney Roberson
"I apologize to the fans that came to the game." - Billy Kennedy
.... with those delightful quotes as our backdrop, let's dive into this New Year's Eve debacle.
One change - DaVonte Fitzgerald (3-15 FG in his last two starts) made way for Antwan Space. In theory, this move made sense. Fitzgerald is a defensive/rebounding downgrade at forward, so he needs to consistently shoot his way into the starting lineup. His recent performance hasn't cut it, so Space was introduced.
Full starting lineup: Caruso/Green/Jones/Space/Roberson
Quick question - is it bad when your ESPN game flow resembles this tetris piece?
Our Aggies jumped out to a 10-4 lead behind two quick threes by Alex Caruso (34 minutes; 10 points / 2-3 3PT / 5 rebounds). Brace yourselves, folks, because it's all downhill from here. UNT replied with an extended 32-7 run to close out the first half that was highlighted (lowlighted?) by some of the worst offensive execution and outside shooting ever witnessed at the D1 level. As we have so often seen this season, UNT packed it in with a tight zone and dared A&M to hit open shots. With Jamal Jones (25 minutes; 0 points / 0-5 3PT / 0-6 FG) and Fabyon Harris (26 minutes; 9 points / 1-5 3PT / 3-10 FG) misfiring for the entire afternoon, offensive sets were very frustrating to watch.
If the first half was characterized by a lack of offensive firepower, the second was best summarized by a complete lack of heart. In most home blowouts, the home team will make a token run at some point in the 2nd half to get the crowd involved. You all know the drill - someone hits a big shot to cut the lead to 5 or less, the visiting team immediately calls a timeout, and the home scrubs explode on to the court to greet the starters with a series of dorky high fives. That never happened in this game. North Texas, a team clearly out manned on paper, NEVER LET THE LEAD DIP INTO SINGLE DIGITS. No token run. No energy. No spark. Absolutely nothing.
But don't just take my word for it, former player Andrew Darko was also very frustrated by the 2nd half effort and (courtesy of our own @DerekAggie06) shared his thoughts via twitter. Can't really say it any better than he did.
Game MVP: Maurice Aniefiok (32 minutes; 16 points / 4-6 3PT / 6 rebounds) displayed some nice (and previously unseen) range and gave the Mean Green great production off the bench.
We'll start down low, where the forwards get an F minus. Fitzgerald (19 minutes; 4 points / 3-9 FG) continued his cold streak from outside and Space (20 minutes; 1 rebound / 2-7 FG / 5 points) did not provide the defense/rebounding edge that we've come to expect. Perhaps my earlier idea of an Antwante Spitzgerald cloning exercise was premature. Even the reliable Kourtney Roberson (25 minutes; 2 points / 6 rebounds) contributed nothing offensively.
Guard play gets a F plus, but only because Caruso appeared to give a damn and I wanted to include a Tenacious D reference. A small silver lining did come from Shawn Smith (17 minutes; 5 points / 3 rebounds / 2-3 FG) looking rotation-worthy again, but Jordan Green (25 minutes; 2 points / 2 assists / 2 TO) was anonymous for large stretches and the overall assist-turnover ratio of 7:17 was abysmal.
So... what now? With one game remaining until the conference gauntlet kicks in, this team is absolutely reeling. While most teams have honed in on their 7-8 man rotation and are fine-tuning specific roles, we have an absolute free-for-all on our hands. I'm hoping to see the team rebound (figuratively OR literally) against UTPA on Saturday, but I won't hold my breath. After a performance like this, anything is possible.