The question leading into this game was about the coach, and if he would be taking the Texas Tech job for which he was rumored to be the leading candidate. A couple of hours before tip, Jeff Goodman tweeted that McCasland was the “top target.” We wrote in the MGN newsletter that this was a big night for North Texas basketball. It either would propel the Mean Green to new heights, after beating a power five program from the nation’s best league, or the final hurrah for the best coach in North Texas history.
We know which path they took. Tylor Perry scored 23 via only three of fourteen from distance, but the threes he hit — including one dagger in overtime — were the important things. He danced and shook and took some bad shots, sure, but demanded that Oklahoma State’s 12th-ranked (in kenpom efficiency) defense pay full attention to his ability. He drove the paint for timely buckets, and even managed a pull-up two pointer from the midrange. He scored five straight late in the second half at one point, that put him at 15 for the game and ended an OSU run.
North Texas led at half time — by the way without Abou Ousmane, who is out for family reasons — by seven, and had frustrated Oklahoma State’s offense by doing North Texas-type stuff. The rebounding edge was always a concern, considering that the Cowboys had a size advantage, but North Texas crashed enough boards and came up with enough important ones for the squad to win it. Matthew Stone pulled down a huge one after Tylor Perry had a side step three miss, and found Perry who had set up at the top of the key. Perry nailed the bucket. He also passed 1000 points for his career.
Moulaye Sissoko, filling in for Ousmane, had 12 points and 15 rebounds — his first career double-double. Jayden Martinez, playing the backup big role, had 5 points — including 1 / 2 from three — in limited minutes.
Aaron Scott and Rubin Jones were huge in their roles. Scott’s slashing and spot-up shooting were key, and his energy and hustle on defense were instrumental. Jones guarded their best scorer, and had a nice all-around game even while carrying four fouls for about ten minutes. He added a beautiful pass on the pick-and-roll to help stymie an OSU run, as well.
Basically, if you have seen a good North Texas performance ever, you know how this game went. There was hustle, there was clutch shooting, there were big buckets and big defensive stops.
There were also head-scratching offensive possessions, and some air balls. There were some turnovers. There were some rebounds given up at weird times. Oklahoma State should get plenty of credit for their defense and effort. They missed big shots — Caleb Asberry missed three straight free-throws, including two that would have pushed them ahead with under a minute — and OSU went 0/7 in OT. Give the Mean Green some credit for burning their reserves, however. North Texas likes to play a dog-fight game, and forced OSU to battle for everything. That helped tire the legs a bit.
Both teams shot under 40% — NT shot 35% while OSU shot 33% for the game. The timely points are what mattered. Perry and Kai Huntsberry had 10 in the OT period, and Perry added 13 in the second half.
North Texas is playing its best basketball at the right time. They closed the regular season out with a couple of blowout wins in the final weekend, and routed Louisiana Tech in the 2nd round of the CUSA tournament. The blip against UAB is why NT fell into the NIT, but NT had two blowouts vs solid competition in the first and second rounds at home before winning on the road against a solid Oklahoma State.
Next up: Wisconsin in the NIT semifinal from Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, NV on March 28.