Basketball had a hell of a night. Both the Men’s and Women’s programs put on a show on the road.
Grant McGasland’s crew of scrappy Mean Greeners went to Birmingham and out-hustled, out-played, and out-basketball-ed the preseason conference favorite Blazers.
UAB has not been the team everyone predicted but they still remain good and most league observers expected UAB to win this one handily. North Texas has given little reason to scare anyone, with some clear holes in the attack and some poor awareness leading to some close home losses. Still, NT is scrappy and should not be overlooked. Perhaps UAB was doing the latter and forgetting that NT has some really good players who hustle.
McGasland tweeted that he wanted Roosevelt Smart, shooter extraordinaire, to hustle more and early in the game he did just that, diving on the floor for a loose ball that led to a DJ Draper three — one of his four in the game. NT has just the right about of shooting and the right amount of athleticism to give any team in this league a game if everyone is hustling. Right now North Texas is hitting something akin to a stride winning four straight.
This stretch of games is the toughest on the schedule with UAB, MTSU, WKU, and Marshall all lined up. Having dispatched with UAB on the road NT will face clear conference leader Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro this Saturday at five in the afternoon.
To say that it is a huge game is an understatement. NT can make a statement that would resonate beyond just the little pond that is CUSA. Middle is not only one of the better teams in the league, but in the nation. A win would signal that NT is maybe not back but not the sad sack program that it was the last five years.
Even with a loss, NT has a real shot to finish the league in the top-four, giving the program a fighting chance to make some noise in the league tournament in Frisco March 7-10. Without the first round bye, the team faces a daunting task if it wants to advance. A bye could make all the difference. Right now, Marshall and NT are in a tie for the fourth spot and the Herd have a much easier slate ahead of them before the 2/17 matchup in Denton.
Hooping in Florida
Meanwhile, Jalie Mitchell is still rebuilding the women’s program. After something like a promising start the NT squad lost five straight including a terrible loss in San Antonio to the very bad Roadrunners in which the Mean Green missed damned near everything.
This road trip began with the complete opposite of a performance. Mitchell and company took that loss hard but returned with a great week of practice and a show in Miami. Terriell Bradley went off for 32 points on nine three pointers. That’s a program record. FIU was complete dominated on their home (ugly) floor 92-46. NT held FIU to a terrible 14/53 shooting (28.3%) while they shot 28/70 (54.3%).
After the loss to UTSA, NT was teetering on the edge of not making the league tournament but now is tied for 9th with FU and ODU. The win over FIU helps any potential tie-breaking scenario down the road. NT was handled easily by WKU and UAB — two of the league’s better teams — but played Rice close — the third ranked team. The rest of the league is not separated by much and a league tournament is always about hitting stride at the right time. If Terriell Bradley can shoot like she did the other night, anything is possible.
There are good times happening at the Super Pit