The men’s team cannont play anything but a nail-biter, apparently. The last time NT played Rice Roosevelt Smart went off for 42 and DJ Draper lit it up from three on the way to a career high for himself also.
In this one, Draper hit a couple of huge shots during a comeback from 9 points to help NT overcome Rice in Denton.
Smart did not have his touch from distance in this one, going 3/13 from deep, but did manage 28 poitns on 7/19 shooting including 11/14 from the stripe.
Draper had 12 for the Mean Green on 4/9 shooting and 2/7 from deep. He hit two clutch free throws late to push the lead out to three with under a minute left.
Rice led by 9 with 8:39 left in the game after Connor Cashaw hit a three pointer. NT cut into with with a jumper from Smart and a dunk from Holston while Rice only managed a free threw.
NT then trimmed the lead to six after trading a free throw and layup from Allante Holston with Najja Hunter’s three. Then Roosevelt Smart and DJ Draper hit back-to-back threes to tie the game.
Draper hit his tying bucket after a scramble and offensive rebound by Ryan Woolridge who had four total boards in this one to go with 5 points on 2/8 shooting and 6 assists in 33 minutes.
Rice’s Bishop Mency then immediately hit a three of his own to put the Owls up with 5:20 to go. He had 17 on the game.
After some back and forth, NT finally took the lead after Draper hit a layup then a three pointer to put NT up by two with 1:49 left.
For the game, North Texas shot 41.1% but was poor in the first putting up 28.6% on 8/28. NT shot 53.6% in the second and made 11 of the last 20 shots in the game.
While Smart and Draper were awesome, this game is not won if Holston does not play an amazing game. He put up 13 points and 7 rebounds and led the team in PER with 18. Nine of the thirteen were in the second half on 4/5 shooting. He was instrumental in the comeback with his energy and ability to finish around the basket.
Depending on the results in El Paso and Norfolk tonight, NT will either have the fourth spot outright or share them with UAB and Marshall. NT is 6-4 in league play. The top four seeds get a first round bye in the league tournament. There is a lot of basketball to play before we kick talk about the postseason in earnest but this is still a great effort by McGasland’s group.