North Texas Daily

Draper nails game winner as men’s basketball claims OT win

Draper nails game winner as men’s basketball claims OT win

January 27
21:31 2018

“DJ Draper — he’s more than just a shooter,” North Texas head coach Grant McCasland said on his way out of the team’s postgame press conference Saturday night.

It’s something he’s said before in practice and in post game quotes, but after this game, Draper’s play spoke for itself.

In a 56 second span late in the second half, Draper had two impressive steals, solidifying his spot in the closing lineup for McCasland in a tight game against Florida International University.

In overtime with the Mean Green trailing by a single point, sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge lost control of the ball as time ticked off the clock. As soon as he saved it, he found Draper to his left.

Draper had no time to think and simply did what most people know him for — he rose up and sunk a 3-pointer. This time, for the win.

Draper’s shot gave the Mean Green (12-10, 5-4) a 69-67 win over FIU (9-13, 3-6) at the Super Pit, and while Draper was the hero, it was a moment he was already mentally prepared for.

“I had good confidence even after the turnover I shouldn’t have made,” Draper said. “Coach Mac and the coaching staff give me so much confidence. After being a redshirt and not playing for a year it’s hard to come back and have a bunch of confidence but they do a great job of giving me that.”

Draper ended the game with nine points on 3-of-7 shooting from 3-point range along with three steals while playing 31 minutes and closing the game on the floor in both regulation and overtime.

Woolridge was the primary playmaker offensively though, as he finished with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting with six assists and five rebounds.

“I just take what the defense gives me,” Woolridge said. “I was just reading them and if they gave me lanes I was going to take them.”

Defensively, North Texas allowed FIU to shoot 56.5 percent from the field in the first half. In the second half, though, the Panthers only managed to shoot 27.8 percent.

While Draper and Woolridge did a lot of the work on the guards, the team’s interior defense had seven blocks and the team stopped giving up easy transition opportunities to the Panthers.

“We had a hard time guarding the ball screens, initially,” McCasland said. “But really it was our turnovers and it led to 20 points for them. Instead of them having to play against a set defense, they were getting layups in transition.”

Draper and Woolridge headed the win, but sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart also pitched in with 16 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

The last shot for North Texas was not the designed look McCasland was looking for, but it was essentially a microcosm of the game.

“I thought that last play was a picture of how the game went,” McCasland said. “Ryan made the play to come up with the ball and DJ made the shot because of his confidence. It’s not the way we drew it up but we were tough enough to make plays down the stretch.”

Next up: The Mean Green take on Rice University on at 5 p.m. Saturday night at the Super Pit.

Featured image: North Texas sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge (0) shoots the ball against Florida International. Rachel Walters

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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