I was calm. I just had to stay calm. North Texas was down just the two and needed a bucket to tie or win. Tylor Perry brought the ball down the court with time ticking down to 11 seconds. Rubin Jones got a pin down screen free him for the pass on the left wing at free throw line extended. Perry, who is guarded by Jelly Walker, continues to the corner. Abou Ousmane is posting down-low.
Once the team sees they have a switch, they get the ball back to Perry guarded by Trey Jemison. Perry would go on to say that “I saw his hands down” and that is why he let it fly with :2 remaining. Buckets. Walker would try a heave from half court but that was not even close. NT won.
20th win of the year. 12th straight win — all in conference. They avenged their last loss — at home — to UAB in January. North Texas moved to 8-0 on the road and are looking at four very winnable games left in the regular season. This win sewed up the west division barring a ridiculous slip up. It also is the 11th 20-win season in school history and the second fastest to the mark (24 games).
The Mean Green were facing their toughest test of the season on the road at UAB. I’ll leave it to others to break down the quadrant, or quality win, or calculus of beating a good Blazer team on the road late in the season. I will tell you that it is an impressive feat. NT is good, but had trouble with UAB in Denton. This was something like a revenge game, but really, it was a preparation for the league tournament. North Texas has played really good basketball in this stretch of games but this win capped a weekend where North Texas won on the road against very good winning teams while not playing their best basketball. On Thursday, Tylor Perry lost the ball three times in the final minute. Tonight, Thomas Bell was in foul trouble, and couldn’t find the rhythm of the game.
That happens. NT played great defense in both games, and other guys found the shots they needed when they needed them. Ousmane had 9 huge points, and Aaron Scott had six huge rebounds and a big block late. It I a team game, folks.
NT got through a physical first half scathed. That is, they were down only a couple points on the scoreboard but they had a ton of fouls to deal with. Bell was struggling. Tylor Perry was abusing Mike Ertel, putting him on the ground with some step-backs twice but that was about all of the offense NT could muster.
The second half was better, as Ousmane was huge, the NT defense did its favorite thing and held the Blazers to one-shot. The offense was getting buckets at the end of the shot clock. The Blazers were frustrated, the crowd was quiet. The lead was as high as seven.
Until NT went on a scoring drought. The offense devolved into hoping Perry could cross up Ertel and get a bucket falling away. UAB crawled back into it and Jelly Walker tied it up at 49 with 4:53 left.
From that point there was a run. It looked like the hometown Blazers were going to fend off the division leading Mean Green and set up their own feel-good narrative as we headed toward the league tournament.
At 1:54 in the 2nd half Tavon Lovan got a driving layup to put the lead at 49-55 UAB. Thomas Bell, who had an awfully unlucky game 1, drove confidently and found Abou Ousmane in the lane ready to finish. He was blocked from behind, UAB recovered and Lovan scored. NT was down five, with momentum fully tilted toward UAB and a Bartow Arena in Birmingham fully rocking.
Big Shot/Play 1: Mardrez McBride moved from his spot in the corner to the top of the key upon seeing Bell dive and Perry driving to his left on the Ousmane pick. JJ Murray was sitting in the left corner. McBride caught the ball at the top of the key, and hit a big three. There were :07 left on the clock. NT had just ended an 11-0 run. NT had not scored in 5:30 minutes. NT 52 UAB 55
UAB is fouled and gets one of two free throws from Jelly Walker. Then after McBride attacks the rim, he is called for a charge. NT 52 UAB 56 0:57s left.
Big Shot /Play 2: Aaron Scott blocks Jelly Walker’s ill-advised attempt at the rim and gets the rebound with 43s left. Perry drives into the lane and pumps. He’s blocked at the rim but he, and Scott fight three Blazers for the ball. Murray gets the rebound and fires it out to a wide open Rubin Jones. He maybe should shoot that but he’s only hitting 30% or so so instead he pauses and looks for a teammate. Time is sub-30s now He dribbles toward the nail. Meanwhile Perry gets off the floor and runs the baseline, over around a half-screen to get the ball from Jones and lets it go. Money in the bank. 55-56 with 20s left.
The announcers are wondering aloud why Walker took the shot. Lovan is fouled and he misses both, but KJ Buffen bullies his way into the rebound but only makes one of two. NT 55 UAB 57 and 18s to go in the game. This is when I tweet “…breathing ..breathing.”
Big Shot / Play 3: THE SHOT
NT controls their destiny the rest of the way. I am giddy. You are giddy. NT is enjoying the kind of attention that can only come from winning 12-straight and winning in dramatic fashion. NT was in the 40s in the major rankings and lists, and winning the rest of the way (including tournament games) will guarantee a tournament bid but also a good seed. I would not put much stock in an at-large bid, as hoping against hope that the regular season was impressive enough to merit inclusion is putting fate in their hands. However putting an impressive resume together AND winning the league in Frisco puts the squad in good company.
We’ve written in this space before that building a program is about building a reputation. NT won the conference last year and won vs Purdue in the first round. Getting back to the tournament after big roster rotation is a way to get the selection committee to give you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to inclusion, but also seeding.
- Defense was huge again. It traveled all weekend.
- Tyler Perry was -3 in +/-
- Jelly Walker was blocked, missed a couple of free throws, and allowed Perry to get free for the first three to cut the lead to 5. Not exactly clutch
- NT shot 43% to UAB’s 40%
- NT held UAB to 3-11 shooting from 3.
- The refs were bad in that they were inconsistent. A charge on one end, was a block on the other. They let UAB get physical, but NT could not do some of the same things. They fought through it and got stops and got buckets. Only Mac got T-eed up and that is as it should be. Players should let the coaching staff do the talking to the refs and keep playing.
- Mac did not emote after the big bucket. He stood there, and began coaching the defensive stop.
One of those nights↩