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MBB: Rice Upsets NT in Houston

North Texas was expected to go to Rice and handle business. The thing about basketball is that it is a rhythm game and NT would be coming off a week-long break. Rice, after all, was on that same week-long break but at home.

Things like this happen in this game and we should not read too much into this loss. There were mistakes made — missed reads, missed shots, bad possessions and some confusion on defense. There were also some good things — good shooting, a little comeback, and some clutch plays toward the end.

NT got the looks they wanted for a good portion of the game but was not making them. Rice got themselves some good looks and made them. They also had a little more luck — a missed shot at the end of the possession falls into Javion Hamlet’s hand and he knocks it out instead of grabbing it, for example.

Short version: I don’t know that we make too much of this game beyond that NT still has some things to work on. There is another mini-break before traveling to Murfreesboro and then Birmingham. NT drops to 14-9, 8-2 and into a tie in the loss column vs LA Tech. NT of course has the head-to-head advantage over Tech by virtue of the buzzer-beating win on Jan 18.

NT shot well but had a slow first half start. They scored 34 in the first and 41 in the second. Rice had 44 and then 40. NT pulled ahead late but let it slip, with some missed shots and turnovers. Rice hit their catch-and-shoot threes and NT missed theirs in the last four minutes or so.

Zach Simmons was not as crisp, missing a bunny late. DJ Draper and Mo Gibson had 18 each. Hamlet had 15.

Notes: James Harden was in the house. There was a nice little crowd.

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Mean Green Outlast Rice Again 74-70

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.

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Smart Shooting: Roosevelt Smart Shoots NT Past Rice

Rice sat back in a matchup zone, daring North Texas to shoot over it. Roosevelt Smart and DJ Draper did just that. The duo combined for 16/29 from three and 65-points on Saturday.

G Roosevelt Smart hit 10 of those which set a school record. Oh, and he also had 42 points.

From the official school recap:

Smart’s 42 points is the fifth highest scoring output in North Texas history and becomes the 14th player in school history to score 40-plus points. His 10 three-pointers set a new school record with the previous mark being eight by multiple players. Smart also went 10-for-12 from the free throw line and finished 50 percent from the three-point line on 10-of-20.

DJ Draper’s 23 was also a career-high. Smart struggled with ODU’s length a week ago but Rice is not nearly the defensive team that the Monarchs are. NT is now 3-2 and undefeated in three road contents — all in Texas — in conference play.

Next up is the struggling Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in Ruston before heading to Hattiesburg to take on Southern Miss.

The league is settling into a nice hierarchy of which NT is somewhere in the middle tier. MTSU and WKU have established themselves as the clear best as they are now undefeated. WKU won an impressive matchup in Norfolk over ODU this Thursday before handling Charlotte on the road.

NT is much improved over last year but still not anywhere near the top of the league. That is to be expected. The victories are over teams that are all sub-.500 at this early stage — UTSA, UTEP, Rice.

Tech was expected to be a better squad but they’ve had some roster issues and also have played a touch conference schedule to start this league season.

If Smart and Draper can continue raining fire from deep then NT should be fine.

Speaking of Smart, here are his rankings in the CUSA categories of interest.

Name Program Min PPG
Jon Elmore Marshall 674 22.7
Nick King MTSU 561 21.8
CJ Burks Marshall 624 21.0
Roosevelt Smart NT 583 19.3
Name Program 3FG Made
Smart NT 65
Boykins LT 55
Jackson UTSA 51
Name Program FT Made
Elmore Marshall 136
Jackson UTSA 92
King MTSU 80
Beard FIU 80
Smart NT 79