North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball holds second place halfway through conference season

Men’s basketball holds second place halfway through conference season

Men’s basketball holds second place halfway through conference season
January 26
12:00 2023

Midway through its Conference USA schedule, men’s basketball sits at second as the team looks to take home its fourth-straight conference championship. 

Florida Atlantic University is first in C-USA and has given North Texas two of its three conference losses. The Mean Green are currently 2.5 games behind Florida Atlantic, which is undefeated in conference play with 11 games remaining. 

“They don’t give the trophy out in January,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “Ultimately, our goal is going to be to keep getting better. Anytime you play an elite team, you better be tough defensively, so that is the biggest thing we have to shore up.” 

North Texas has been particularly effective defensively and ranks third in NCAA Division I scoring defense, holding its opponents to an average of 55.1 points per game. 

The team opened conference play on Dec. 22 with a 78-54 win over the University of Texas-San Antonio fueled by a career-high 37-point performance from junior forward Abou Ousmane.

Ousmane had 20 points at halftime and nearly outscored Texas-San Antonio, which scored 23 points at the half. He shot 15-19 on the night and racked up 11 rebounds. 

North Texas did not give up its lead for the entirety of the game. The Roadrunners came within one point about seven minutes into the second half, but the Mean Green went on a 17-0 run to seal their victory. 

Ousmane has been a key player for the Mean Green this season, averaging 6.2 rebounds and 11.6 points per game.  

A strong finish by Florida Atlantic proved too much for North Texas to overcome as it fell 50-46 to the now-No. 21 ranked team in the Associated Press men’s college basketball poll. 

The Mean Green led Florida Atlantic by nine points with 5:24 left in the game, but ended on a 13-0 run to ultimately take home the win and hand North Texas its first conference loss. 

“The tougher team wins,” Ousmane said. “We got to find a way to pull out as a team and find a way to get a victory.”

Bouncing back from the loss, the Mean Green went on a four-game win streak, taking home wins against Florida International University, Western Kentucky University, Middle Tennessee State University and Louisiana Tech University. 

To start the win streak, the team defeated Florida International 72-57 on New Year’s Eve in the Super Pit. Senior guard Tylor Perry put up 20 points, and three other players had point totals in the double digits. 

North Texas had the lead during the entire contest, scored 11 3-pointers and shot 80 percent from deep in the second half. The game was one of the Mean Green’s best offensive showings so far this season as their fourth-highest point total.

North Texas picked up another win in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where it took home a narrow 70-66 win over the Hilltoppers. In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the Mean Green continued their conference win streak with a 56-51 win over Middle Tennessee, where they came back from being down 19 points in the first half. 

Back home in the Super Pit, senior guard Kai Huntsberry scored the game-winning shot in a close contest against Louisiana Tech to give the team a 67-65 win and extend their win streak to four.

“Coach said ‘Go get a bucket,’” Huntsberry said of the final shot. “We all work hard, and [my team] just happened to have some trust in me for this — I am thankful they see my work.” 

This season is Huntsberry’s first with the Mean Green, and he has been a top scorer. He averages 11.6 points per game and also leads the team in assists.  

A trip to Florida consisted of another loss to Florida Atlantic and a win against Panthers. The team most recently split contests between Rice University and the University of Alabama-Birmingham.  

Perry is the leading scorer for the Mean Green and currently averages 17.3 points per game and 45.9 percent 3-point shooting. He has 328 total points so far this season. 

The Mean Green have 10 games remaining until the end of the regular season. North Texas is searching for a final C-USA championship in its last season in the conference.

“We have a lot of stuff we still need to get better at,” Perry said. “[C-USA] is loaded. On any given night, anybody can get beat. These are the type of games you want to play in, and you want to be able to put yourself in a position to be first in the conference.”  

Featured Image The Mean Green men’s basketball team hosts a game in the Coliseum on Nov. 20, 2022. Photo by Marco Barrera

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Jillian Nachtigal

Jillian Nachtigal

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