“Don’t ever doubt me!” said Javion Hamlet.
Some people did. Purdue was a -7 point favorite coming into this game. Hamlet was icy again when it mattered, getting eight straight points in the second half at one point to hold off an angry Purdue Boilermaker squad that felt the pressure of being the favorite against 13 seed North Texas squad.
CUSA has done well in the tournament in the recent past, with ODU the only dud when they lost to the 2019 version of this Purdue squad with Carsen Edwards. NT was an underdog here but was a fun pick to upset the young Purdue team. NT boasted a senior-laden squad and an unguardable wing in Javion Hamlet.
The probable game plan for the Mean Green was to sink on the big guys (Trevion Williams and Zach Edey) who were the strength of the squad. Purdue was very old school and gave their big men lots of touches. NT had success with this idea against WKU and La Tech but the Purdue fans (at least) were skeptical this could work against their big guys.
The key would be the Purdue shooting. NT would be leaving some solid shooters open and hoping that aggressive closeouts would do the trick. It did. Purdue hit some threes in the second half but finished 9/30, a total that includes some of those desperation looks that would not have materially changed the score late.
NT got huge plays early from X-factor Thomas Bell, who scored 16 big points and had 6 important ones early. He attacked with aggression and defensively he was incredible, blocking the Purdue big man Williams in clutch situations down the stretch. In a pivotal moment late when Purdue had clawed back to tie it, he blocked Williams on one end and then scored on him on the other to push NT’s lead out to four.
Also clutch? Mardrez McBride, who hit 4 of 6 from distance, and was serviceable in the point guard role to get Javion Hamlet some rest.
Hamlet saved his best for when it matters, as he has all season. His 24 points included an incredible stretch where he scored 8 straight to hold off yet another Purdue rally.
NT had a chance to win it before the end of regulation but James Reese missed a bank shot. NT dominated overtime, scoring, hitting free throws, while Purdue could not buy a bucket.
Okay Let’s Get Real
We here at MGN have been doing this little thing for a long time and in case you hadn’t realized, there were a lot of games where NT did not win NCAA Tournament games. This was the program’s first NCAA Tourney win and it feels really good.
Wife, patron, and friend Lady MGN went out after and immediately bought the following cake:
There were beeverages had and it was great.
NT is trending on the twitter machine and everyone is hyped about being green. It is a good time to be a North Texan and I am enjoying it to the fullest. The only lame part is not being able to be in Indianapolis (MGN could have went to cover it as media or whatever but out of an abundance of caution decided not to). NT takes on the winer of Villanova and Winthrop — a game occurring right now — and will play Sunday in the second round.
Get hyped, nation. Oh and never doubt Javion Hamlet.