North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball beats Alabama-Birmingham in double overtime thriller

Men’s basketball beats Alabama-Birmingham in double overtime thriller

Men’s basketball beats Alabama-Birmingham in double overtime thriller
February 10
21:17 2023

The Super Pit was silent as senior guard Kai Huntsberry went to the free throw line with a chance to give North Texas a three-point lead over the University of Alabama-Birmingham with nine seconds remaining in double overtime.

He made the first. When the second went in, the crowd erupted as North Texas took an 82-79 win over the Blazers Thursday night.

“[Huntsberry] was phenomenal,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “He was phenomenal getting to the paint, and obviously making free throws.” 

The win snapped Alabama-Birmingham’s (17-8, 8-6 Conference USA) four-game win streak and extended the Mean Green’s (20-5, 11-3) to five. The game gave McCasland his 200th NCAA win and was the first time North Texas has seen a game reach double overtime since 2013. 

“It doesn’t have to go perfect, but you have to hang in there with each other and keep competing,” McCasland said. “The result can be that we win close games.” 

The matchup featured the two most winningest teams in the conference over the last six years, with both winning a C-USA tournament championship in the last two years and representing the league in the NCAA Tournament. On Thursday, neither team held more than a seven-point lead, and the game was tied 14 times with 19 lead changes. 

The road team has won the last nine in a row in the series dating back to 2017. McCasland said the Mean Green were able to break that streak tonight due to rebounds.

“Both teams play with great defense and great physicality, and great defense allows you to win on the road,” McCasland said. “They really made it hard on us […] and we tried to convince our guys, ‘let’s win the rebounding war,’ and we did.” 

Senior guard Tylor Perry, who was the games leading scorer with 28 points, was the driving force in sending the game to overtime. Perry scored twice in the final 3:30 to put the Mean Green down one with less than 30 seconds left. 

“You have to be able to finish and execute at the end of games, and I think we made enough plays at the end,” Perry said. “Hats off to [Alabama-Birmingham] playing as hard as they did, but I think we just made a couple more plays.”

With nine seconds remaining in regulation, sophomore guard Aaron Scott found himself at the free throw line with the chance to give North Texas the lead. He missed the first, but sunk the second to tie the game at 62. The Blazers were unable to score on their possession, forcing overtime. 

“I should have made the first one obviously, that would have been game,” Scott said. “My teammates kept telling me, ‘next play, next play,” and I just had to keep that same mentality.”

McCasland attributed Scott’s success to the work he puts in during practice. 

“[Scott] has dedicated himself to being a great player, and when you do that, you have confidence even when things don’t go your way,” McCasland said. “That’s the key, your confidence is in the work.” 

Alabama-Birmingham senior guard Jordan “Jelly” Walker put up 20 points for the Blazers. Walker did not play in the Mean Green’s first matchup with the Blazers earlier this season due to injury.

“[Walker] makes difficult shots by himself but he has so much gravity to him with other defenders that it distorts your defense,” McCasland said. “I thought [Rubin Jones] was relentless in his effort to make it difficult. You’re not going to stop him, but you have to make it as difficult as you possibly can.” 

In the first overtime, Alabama-Birmingham got off to a 5-0 start as Walker opened with a three. A layup from junior forward Abou Ousmane and a Perry three tied the game at 67. A three-point play from Huntsberry later put the Mean Green up one, and a pair of Perry free throws gave them a three-point advantage with 22 seconds left. 

The Blazers then hit a 3-pointer to tie the game 72-72 and send it into double overtime.

“We knew coming into conference it wasn’t going to be easy and that we were going to be in games like this,” Perry said. “The main thing is just staying level-headed and sticking together.”

Aaron Scott opened the final frame with two made free throws. The teams traded baskets and the Blazers found themselves trailing by one in the final seconds. Huntsberry hit two free throws to put the game away. 

“[Huntsberry] is good at making plays at the end of games,” Perry said. “He doesn’t get rattled, and I can’t do nothing but be proud of him.” 

The Mean Green remain No. 2 in C-USA and are two games behind No. 1 Florida Atlantic University. The team will face the University of North Carolina-Charlotte at home on Feb. 11. 

Featured Image Senior guard Kai Huntsberry faces off against a defender in a game against the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Feb. 9, 2023. Photo by Marco Barrera

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Jillian Nachtigal

Jillian Nachtigal

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