With only a few seconds left on the game clock in overtime, Tylor Perry dribbled purposefully toward half court. Upon a second viewing you can see his plan in every action: he wanted to win this game with one shot. UAB had just miraculously (because of the person who shot and made it) tied it a few seconds before with a three-pointer. Perry looked to end things with one heave. The problem is that it was a heave he was going to attempt. He pulled up just inside of the halfway line and let the ball go. Grant McCasland, never a man accused of hiding his true feelings, stood aghast and disgusted at what was happening but clearly hoping the ball would fall heroically through the net. Instead, the ball was short of the rim about a foot, and Mac kept his disappointed pose — arms and legs outstretched, mouth agape — and Perry began explaining himself.
That moment might have been a point of criticism if NT lost, but they didn’t and it isn’t. If you are overly concerned about it, consider that you want your best players taking shots with confidence, even if they are a little bit outside of their abilities. That’s the game. As it was, there were so many good and incredible contributions from the likes of everyone — from Kai Huntsberry to Aaron Scott, and Rubin Jones and Abou Ousmane — that we can let the coaching that happens after film discussion do the bulk of the work. As it was, we expected a haymaker-trading game with big time contributions from both team’s best players. We got that in an extra ten-minutes worth of game. North Texas beat a good UAB squad twice now, and will have one more (likely) in Frisco to make it worth much of anything beyond bragging rights. That isn’t to say this was not without reward, as it means NT is closer to locking up the second seed that would ensure a relatively easier path to winning the league tournament. FAU is still holding strong and barring an epic collapse, NT’s best hope is second place.
With this won, NT broke the road team win streak — 10 games — in this series. UAB split with FAU, including a blowout win last time out. NT has beaten UAB twice, and lost to FAU twice. The takeaway is that the top of the league is good and the differences between the teams are little to nothing.
Tonight, Charlotte comes to Denton, with their pack-line defense and their deliberate offense. Expect the big man to run the offense through himself, and for a pair of teams who like to be very deliberate. The good news is NT is way more efficient at the slow game than is Charlotte, but the 49ers are nothing to sniff at.
Thursday showed the very best of what NT can be: Tylor Perry getting the clutch buckets, but Jones, and Scott providing the athleticism and oomph that is required from a top league team. Kai Huntsberry was amazing getting the kind of post-play we have been looking for, in clutch moments. It is very easy to short-arm those shots, or draw an offensive foul. He looked poised and ready, and came through with flying colors. Do not discount his important free throw shooting. Aside from that, you can say that if Jelly Walker makes that, it is a different game. Sure, but the thing to focus on is that NT had UAB down — that wasn’t going to be a game-winner. Putting yourself in a spot where their dynamic playmaker can’t beat you is how you negate their game-changing talent. Good stuff.