North Texas Daily

Memorable men’s basketball season comes to a close

Memorable men’s basketball season comes to a close

Memorable men’s basketball season comes to a close
March 24
12:00 2022

A historic men’s basketball season came to an end Sunday as North Texas fell to the University of Virginia in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

The Mean Green (25-7, 16-2 Conference USA) led the nation in points allowed per game as they notched program records for total wins and conference victories while at one point rattling off a program-best 15-game win streak. Those feats led North Texas to a C-USA regular season title before an early exit from the C-USA tournament sealed its first-ever NIT appearance. Falling to Virginia ended the historic run.

“[I] couldn’t imagine a better group to coach,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “They just kept doing things people didn’t think they could do. I just hate to see it end, that’s it. You go in the locker room and I just don’t want it to end, for them.”

Sophomore guard Rubin Jones dribbles the ball towards a Charlotte defender at the Super Pit on Jan. 20, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane

Hosting Texas State University in the opening round of the NIT, North Texas slayed the Bobcats 67-63 in overtime to pick up its first-ever win in the tournament. The Mean Green trailed by seven points with less than a minute left in regulation but went on a 10-3 run to force overtime. They then pulled ahead for good with 3:14 left in overtime to seal the victory.

“I was on the bench praying with the guys that we were able to come back and win [against Texas State],” senior forward Thomas Bell said. “I didn’t want that to be the last game and how we went out on our own floor. It’s a blessing to just be able to play basketball and then play with this program, this coaching staff and players.”

Several close wins helped define the campaign. In February, the Mean Green rode a pair of late 3-pointers by junior guard Tylor Perry to top the University of Alabama-Birmingham. North Texas also rallied from down 17 points early in the second half to defeat Louisiana Tech University 63-62 on a game-winning three by Perry. It defeated the Bulldogs a second time on Feb. 26 to clinch the regular season title on another late Perry three.

He averaged a team-leading 13.5 points per game and had the team’s best 3-point shooting percentage at 41.4 percent. Coming off the bench for every game except the team’s season finale, Perry was named C-USA’s Sixth Player of the Year in addition to making First Team All-Conference.

Trailing Virginia by two points with four seconds left, Perry received a full-court pass and launched a fadeaway three which bounced off the backboard and rim before narrowly missing.

Mardrez McBride guards during a game on Feb. 7, 2022. Photo by Kristian

“That’s all you can ask for, to give yourself a shot to win the game,” Perry said. “It hurts but besides that, playing my last game with JJ [Murray] and TB, that’s a tough one for me. I’m not really worried about the shot, just not being able to walk in the locker room and see those guys anymore. […] That’s the toughest thing for me.”

A cog of the Mean Green’s seven-man rotation, Bell posted 12.5 points per game along with team-highs of 7.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists. Bell’s impact earned him a spot on the league’s All-Defensive Team along with Second Team All-Conference honors.

Senior guard Mardrez McBride followed him with 11.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game along with a team-leading 79 made 3-pointers. Last season’s sixth man, fellow senior guard JJ Murray stepped into a starting role to average 3.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and a team-best 1.5 steals per game.

Murray and Bell will join senior forwards Hameir Wright and Jahmiah Simmons in departing the team this offseason while McBride will decide whether to return for an additional year of eligibility.

“[I am] just going to miss going to practice every day with these guys,” McCasland said. “I miss games with some teams because you feel like the games are when they were at their best. This team was at its best every day in practice. That’s what I’ll miss is just being around them every day with this group. There hasn’t been a more connected group.”

Featured Image: The men’s basketball team comes in for a huddle on Feb. 7, 2022. Photo by Kristian Freeman

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John Fields

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