Jose Alvarado led Tech scorers with 19 points in 39 minutes as the freshman backcourt made a statement on Friday afternoon in McCamish Pavillion. Though offense was tough to come by in the first half, the Jackets shot a tremendous 55.6% from the field in the second half to secure the 63-49 victory, their third of the season.
Though uncharacteristic for past Tech teams, outside shooting was a major threat as the Jackets shot 38.9% from beyond the three point arc. Leading the charge was freshman Curtis Haywood II, who sunk five from deep, racked up fifteen points in the process, a high water mark for his young career.
Tadric Jackson, in his first game back from suspension, made his presence known with 14 points as the first man off the bench, his traditional role last season. Jackson, ever the playmaker, seemed to be overly aggressive early in the first half, but settled down as he got comfortable.
With Justin Moore and Josh Okogie still suspended, along with assistant coach Darryl LaBerrie on leave, the Jackets against were forced to play with a short bench, even by coach Josh Pastner’s standards, though Moore is eligible for return as early as Tuesday night against Northwestern. Four starters played more than three quarters of the game, while Jackson played 27 minutes in his return to the court. The bench, besides Tadric, saw sparse playing time, with only Moses Wright and Evan Cole playing outside of garbage time. Coming off a career game, Brandon Alston was unable to capitalize and contributed as many fouls, two, as rebounds and assists.
Both teams started in an offensive funk, and Jose Alvarado’s first basket two minutes into the game didn’t exactly unleash a tidal wave of scoring. Six and a half minutes into the game, the score was North Texas 7, Jose Alvarado 7. The young point guard was seizing opportunity, and the Jackets had turned the ball over each of the previous three opportunities.
The teams traded leads, with North Texas effective from three almost all night, a trend that has held up in each of Tech’s four games so far. The visiting Mean Green never took a lead larger than three on the night, when a layup made it 19-16 in the visitors’ favor. The very next possession, Alvarado tied the game with a three point jumper and the Jackets never looked back, riding a three point lead off of Haywood’s first score of the night into the halftime break, with the score just 22-19.
Just like Wednesday, Tech broke the game open in the second half. That was when the rain came. Though North Texas, for the most part, answered on their own possessions, they could not keep up with Haywood’s barrage of three point baskets. Tech’s lead grew to as many as 15 points by about the ten minute mark, when Wright sunk a jumper, assisted by Haywood, off an Alvarado steal. The freshmen played well, if that scoring line isn’t enough to convince.
Though North Texas was able to cut the lead to as little as eight points several times, the Jackets, were able to put the game on ice with three minutes to play. Sylvester Ogbonda and Jon Brown saw their second stint of game action on the season, once again in very limited, end-of-game minutes, as the Jackets tamed the Mean Green of North Texas, 63-49. The win was their third in a row, bringing them to 3-1 on the young season, as well as their third straight win at home, where they saw so much success last season.
Alvarado put up 19 points in the win, with 12 coming in the first half. On the flip side, Haywood scored 15, with 12 of his contribution in the second half. Roosevelt Smart led North Texas in scoring, with 14 points. In general, Tech played solid defense, limiting the effectiveness of a large North Texas team. Though Pastner does not often like to lose on the boards, Tech was not totally shut out of the rebounding game by the size of the Mean Green, though on offense they could have been more aggressive.
Again shorthanded, and again out-rebounded, Tech won because they were the more talented team. Jackson, ever the exhilarating and aggressive floor presence, settled in midway through his return and the Jackets, at times, showed glimpses of the special team from last year. It’s early for the season for this young Yellow Jacket squad that is quickly gaining experience, but, with 3-2 Northwestern coming to town on Tuesday, look for the senior guard to settle in to the new-look Tech lineup and give the preseason no. 19 a run for their money at home.