In the 2021 CUSA title game, Thomas Bell took the bulk of the online criticism for his shooting.
By around the 11-minute mark North Texas looked gassed. Guys were slipping, passes were tipped, and shots were short or way off. Thomas Bell took the brunt of criticism, missing six threes over the span. From the 9:42 mark to the 4:42 mark he missed five of those six. NT kept grinding, running the offense, but nothing that was there over this tournament was working. The legs looked spent, and WKU was getting just a bit more confident.
But then he came up big.
Sort of hidden, and perhaps forgotten was this line:
Thomas Bell blocked Taveion Hollingsworth’s final attempt and NT hit free throws with :2 left. CHAMPS
I love the dude’s game. He can guard all five positions competently, makes huge plays when it matters, and is unfazed by the moment, the momentum, and circumstance. Against Tech on Saturday, he got huge block on Cobe Williams late, had a steal, got some rebounds and of course got the rebound and assisted Perry’s clutch three.
I went to the play-by-play to remember what happened. Here is Bell’s official statistic lines from the final 2:41:
2 Missed FT
(Helped block Lofton)
Assist 3 for the win
He’s being asked to help run the offense much more than he was last year. This is partly why his assist rate and usage is way up. It is telling that NT, in must-score-time, went to Bell on the block and got good offense from it. He can score in there, with his quick leaping ability, and he can step out and shoot it. What is new, is his ability to drop the little dump-off pass to Ousmane or Scott. He has always been critical defending — he guarded Lofton, and last year guarded team’s perimeter guys as well. He can defend the paint in man-v-man scenarios but also coming over as a help defender.
Obviously, I am not saying anything the advanced numbers, regular numbers, and knowledgable eyeballs aren’t telling you. His line:
34 minutes 21 points, 5/6 2pt 3/4 3pt 7 Reb (4 Off) 3 assists 2 blocks 3 steals
In short, Thomas Bell is the most important dude on this squad. Perry hit that clutch shot. Bell grabbed the rebound and found him open.
Thomas Bell fan club president right here.